Promoting the Craft: Public Exhibitions in the Lakeside Press Galleries
When RR Donnelley completed the last phase of its flagship building at 22nd Street and Calumet Avenue in 1929, it launched an exhibition program that matched in quality those of some the city's leading museums and galleries. The Lakeside Press Galleries were located on the eighth floor of the "D" wing of the building, which was also the location of a suite of wood-paneled executive offices and the Memorial Library, with its collection of important materials manufactured by the company. These spaces were designed as showplaces, and the public was welcomed.
In 1930 the galleries hosted five exhibitions, all organized by the advertising and graphics-arts departments. The topics included American and English woodblock prints, European posters, aeronautical prints, and contemporary American book illustrations. The following year, which was just as active, included an exhibition on Czechoslovakian printing and modern photography. Between 1930 and 1961, when corporate headquarters moved to a new building, the company organized more than 130 exhibitions, the galleries closing only during World War II.
The materials for each exhibition came from a variety of sources. They featured works on paper from important private collections, for example color aquatints owned by Mrs. James Ward Thorne, flower and fruit prints from the holdings of Gordon Dunthorne, and early Chicagoana amassed by Joseph T. Ryerson. Other displays focused on technology, such as commercial bookbinding, halftone engraving, direct-color photo reproduction, intaglio printing, and offset lithography, to mention a few. Exhibitions were devoted to artists Thomas Hart Benton, John Stuart Curry, Grant Wood, and typographers R. Hunter Middleton and Bruce Rogers.
RR Donnelley's exhibitions received regular coverage in local newspapers, often alongside reviews of shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. Each show was announced with a printed invitation and accompanied by a catalog (often very elaborate) designed and produced by the company. These represent some of the best design and printing available at the time.