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Archival description
Frederic Urban fonds Series
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Photographs and slides

The photographs, slides and contact prints in this series consist mainly of images associated with the textual records and usually removed from them. The arrangement relates directly to the textual series of which they are part and then arranged chronologically within.

Manuscripts and publications

Professor Urban’s writings focus on the relationship between art and architectural design. Six of his publications are present in this series. Some of those that appeared before 1986 and all published afterward are absent. His earliest writing are based on his involvement with Networks Limited in Halifax, then on collaboration with New York City artist Brian Boigon, and finally on his research in Italy in the 1980s.

Lectures and criticism

Frederic Urban gave a number of addresses as a visiting artist and lecturer. In 1979 he was a visiting artist at Ohio State University, where he photographed a number of student street performances. In October 1981 he was guest lecturer with the Venice Study Abroad Program run by the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto. The following year he was a guest lecturer at University College in the University of Toronto for Larry Richard’s course, “Introduction to architecture”. In 1984 and 1985 he gave lectures
on his Sacri Monti project at Carleton University and the University of Toronto. In 1991 he
was a visiting lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Stout. Some of the addresses are documented in this series. For related correspondence, see Series 2.

Professor Urban was a member of the Board of Directors of the Sharon Temple Museum Society from 1996 to 2001 and he and Larry were invited to participate in a series of readings and performances.

Studio work, exhibitions and performances

This series begins with Frederick Urban’s formative years as an artist when he created a large number of exhibits and participated in some performance pieces, primarily in Halifax and New York City. For some of these, he drew on his personal experiences. Two examples are An Acadian genealogy (April 1977), inspired by his family roots in the Acadian region of Brunswick, and Monk (July 1977) by his training as a novice in 1961-1962.

The files cover his years at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1976-1977), continue through his post-graduate studies at the Whitney Museum of American Art, his interest in the art and architecture of Italy (spurred on by his meeting Giuseppe Panza di Biumo), and several installations connected to Canadian architecture and architectural history. The last exhibition, ‘The place of work’, accompanied the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s annual conference in Winnipeg in 1989. The arrangement is primarily chronological.

The series ends with several files on performance pieces, the most significant being Anne Wilson and her Butler’s lives of the saints, which was performed both in Halifax and New York City, and an oversized folder of posters for exhibitions and performance pieces collected by Urban.

Some of the exhibitions and performance pieces contain correspondence, drawings and sketches, photographs and/or slides. A number are represented by a combination of photographs and slides or slides alone, with no textual accompaniment. There are also several oversized folders of sketches and drawings for of posters for exhibitions and performance pieces with which Urban was involved and one of posters for events which he may have attended but to which he did not contribute.

Research

Frederick Urban had a passionate interest in the art and architecture of Italy and much of his research, after his studies at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, was focussed on that country. He received grants for two projects in Italy, “The Sacri Monti of Northern Italy” (1985-1989) and for his “House/Custoza” project (1985). The other principal grants funded his visiting professorship at Nanjing Institute of Technology/South East University in Nanjing, China in 1987 and 1988, the files for which are found in Series 4.

This series begins with general files on the Sacri Monti research project, including corres-pondence and grant applications, literature, maps, general research material, photographs, posters, and some tracings. There are also files for each year that Urban was in Italy, arranged chronologically. They document his itinerary and contain correspondence, a sampling of programs and brochures, programs for the Biennale of Venice (1985), and one journal (1986).

The series ends with files on exhibitions and performances of interest, along with a selection of slides, photoprints, postcards and posters. There is a folder of cards, notices and programs for a number of exhibitions and performances, primarily Canadian (1978-1992), followed by cards and catalogues for particular exhibits: Christo (1979-1982), Creative Time (including Butler’s lives of the saints), Garry Neil Kennedy, Miami University Art Museum, The New Yorker, and Andy Warhol/Jamie Wyeth. The slides are of ‘design elements’, raves in Toronto, the Toronto Sculpture Garden, and ‘Women study’. The photoprints are of streetscapes in Toronto, taken in the early 1980s. There are ‘Special postcards’ [design elements] collected by Urban, postcards of photographs taken by the British photographer, Frank Sutcliffe, ‘Die einrichtungen der Akaademie der Kűnste der DDR’ (1979), and ‘The theatre of architecture’ by Susan Speigel (Toronto, 1986).

Employment

The records in this series document Frederic Urban’s employment record up to 1999. There are files on his public school teaching in Massachusetts, his being a director of Networks Ltd. in Halifax, his years at the University of Waterloo, including his visiting professorship in
China, his year as a director of the S. L. Simpson Gallery, and his employment by the University of Toronto. The arrangement is by position of employment.

The first few files contain primarily correspondence and, in the case of his employment at the University of Waterloo, outlines of courses he taught, Architecture 192 and 193.
There are, in addition, a large number of slides relating to his teaching activities there. The
material relating to Urban’s years at the University of Toronto consists almost entirely of teaching slides.

Urban was occasionally asked to photograph the work of architects and designers. The two examples in this series are from 1982: photographs of “Haig House” as redesigned by George Baird and slides of Melvin Charney’s A Toronto Construction, built at 139 King Street East.

The last three boxes of this series document Urban’s activities as visiting professor, Nanjing Institute of Technology (renamed South East University in May 1988), Nanjing, China, in 1987 and 1988. The files contain correspondence relating to the exchange program and with professors and students, background material, briefing books, journals, lecture notes and student exercises, exhibition material, memorabilia, the report Urban wrote on his return, and press clippings. Accompanying these files is a selection of photographs and slides. Box 011 contains the drawings done by his students.

The series ends with files on the S. L. Simpson Gallery and slides used for lectures at the University of Toronto between 1992 and 1999. The slides are arranged by year, where identified as such.

Education

In the fall of 1960 Frederic Urban entered Merrimack College, a private Roman Catholic institution in North Andover, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1961, he studied Latin at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts, and that autumn entered the Augustinian Good Counsel Novitiate in New Hamburg, New York as a novice monk. In the fall of 1962 he returned to his studies at Merrimack, from which he received an AB (Humanities) in 1964. His other degrees were an MA in literature from Boston College in 1970, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in 1978, followed by an independent study program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1978-1979. This series documents his studies at the last two institutions. The arrangement is by name of institution.

The files relating to Urban’s studies at NSCAD and the Whitney Museum include his applications, covering correspondence, and material relating to courses taken. There are also a number of slides documenting his time at both institutions. Material on exhibitions and performance pieces done while a student is filed with Series 6. While at the Whitney, one of Frederic’s friends, Colin Lee, had an artwork published in a San Francisco Chinese newspaper. The series ends with a file on the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program Alumni Association.

Correspondence

This series begins with two files of general personal and professional correspondence, followed by files of correspondence with individuals and organizations, arranged alphabetically. The latter document principally Urban’s professional interests, including donations of copies of some of his portfolios to archival repositories, and with artists such as Brian Boignon, who hand-illustrated his correspondence and with whom Urban co-authored an article, and about Mrozinski, a New York musician and performance artist (with accompanying photographs and slides from a performance in 1978). Included also are letters from E. A. (Betty) Murray while vacationing in Italy in 1973.

Personal and biographical

The biographical information in this series is provided largely by several versions of Frederic Urban’s curriculum vitae. The other files contain a notebook (1975-1977) primarily on life in Boston and Halifax, a wall calendar (1981), greeting cards from his partner, Larry Richards, and others, design elements for a garden at Urban and Richards’ penthouse in Etobicoke, and material from a trip to Columbia at Christmas, 1976. Accompanying this textual material are two files of slides, one of “Danny, Halifax”, and the other “Studies for Natchitoches”, Urban and Richards’ property in Louisiana.

Professor Urban has always had a great interest in history, American politics and the presidency; the passion for politics he shared with his partner, Larry. In the late 1960s they both took part in demonstrations on the Boston Common against the Vietnam War; a poster by the Vietnam Moratorium Committee is a memento of that struggle. Another from that era is a special issue of Life (5 July 1968) on the Presidency.