Traditional Carnival posters show history, changing style
By Zan Song, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 8, 2013
The 2013 Winter Carnival poster, designed by Teagan Daly ’13, may be purchased at the Dartmouth Co-Op today for $15. If past traditions continue, however, the same poster may be worth $8,000 in half a century.
Many Carnival posters from decades ago are now collectors’ items, selling for more than $5,000 at auction houses, such as Swann Galleries in New York City, according to College archivist Peter Carini.
Before the recession, it was not uncommon to see original posters sell for up to $8,000, Carini said.
Few other poster series have covered a specific topic for a significant period of time. Because Carnival posters have been designed for more than seven decades, collectors can observe how artistic styles and trends have changed with time, Carini said.
“The ’30s had an art deco theme, the ’40s had another theme — there are many eras that are reflected in the posters,” he said. “Some of the designs are quite funny due to historical context in retrospect.”
Many early posters fit a niche market. All the posters designed before the late 1960s were ski-themed before the carnivals adopted themes.
Carini said he appreciates the early posters’ beauty. He displays an original printing of the 1948 poster in his office.
“I like the style of that time period. I prefer the simple and clean ones,” he said. “I don’t really like the really recent ones. They’ve become really cluttered, driven by design preferences of website and magazine covers.”
Last month, when local film expert Richard Moulton visited Carini’s office, he was surprised to see the 1948 poster on Carini’s wall. Moulton’s parents were the models for the couple depicted in the poster. The artist, Peter Gish ’49, painted the couple during a sunset on the Green.
Historically, designing the Winter Carnival poster has been a popular job. Poster design contests have been held since 1923, and for many years, the contest was competitive and respected by artists outside of the Dartmouth community.
“It was quite a famous design contest. Many designers from all over the country would submit,” Carini said. “It was actually fairly rare for students to win.”
Gregory Clow ’81 submitted designs each year he was a student, though he never won. Clow said he recalls spending most of his winter breaks working on painting the full-sized posters.
“You put your heart into the poster,” Clow said. “Everything was full-sized, so you do nothing but that in the winter break. That poster becomes your baby, and not winning was upsetting.”
Clow still keeps all four of his designs in his home. After graduation, Clow continued his work in design by pursuing advertising. He is the recipient of two Clio Awards for his work.
“Looking back, I just wish that all the artists that work on the posters could have received some recognition,” Clow said. “There were some great artists at Dartmouth, and they deserved recognition.”
Phillip Youker ’92 submitted three designs to the Carnival poster contests, all of which won. Youker’s 1990 poster related to the same theme as this year’s poster.
Youker’s Grimm-themed poster, inspired by Rapunzel, depicted a student standing in a tower extending a green scarf to another student standing below. This was the first poster that Youker designed for the contests, and at the time, he was surprised to win.
Today, Youker’s original drawings are stored in the Rauner Special Collections Library along with approximately 20 other original poster designs. The posters include some of the last designs drawn on full-sized poster board. Since the early 1990s, students have almost exclusively submitted designs on smaller sheets of paper, and many submissions are now digital. Every winning entry, however, has been handdrawn.
Youker did not enter a design-related career after graduation. For the past 21 years, he has worked as a physics teacher.
This year’s winning design was chosen from 15 entries by the Winter Carnival Committee.
“There was no real selection rounds,” committee co-chair Michael Perlstein ’14 said. “We just all came together, talked about which one we thought looked the best and decided.”
Unlike in past years, the winner now receives a monetary award. Daly won $350 for her poster.
The contest is no longer as competitive as it once was. Overall, Winter Carnival festivities are less popular than they were in the past, according to Carini.
“The carnival today is a cheap knock-off of what it used to be,” Carini said.
At the height of its popularity, more than 3,000 people from across the U.S. and Europe attended Winter Carnival.