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 Joseph Townsend ("Joe") Funk  (1901 - 1985)



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Lived/Active: Iowa/California/Arizona      Known for: regional painting, industrial design

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A man who excelled in both classic oils and industrial design, Joseph Funk was born in Shenandoah, Iowa and followed his early aspirations as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. While in his twenties, Funk exhibited at the Joslyn Memorial Museum (Omaha, NE), the Anderson Gallery (NYC), Rockefeller Center (NYC), the Chester Johnson Galleries (Chicago), and at the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids.

His talents in oils led to commissions at several Midwestern universities, as well as projects for the Ottumwa (IA) Public Library, the University of Iowa's Memorial Union, and the Minneapolis Art Institute. In 1930, Funk played a crucial role in facilitating the Little Gallery's satellite studio in Eldon, Iowa, hosting Edward Rowan and serving as an exhibiting artist.

Accompanied by his wife, Dorothy, Funk attended the Stone City Art Colony (1932-1933) while employed as a bank teller. As he continued to pursue art as a permanent career, Funk held several one-man shows and participated in three traveling exhibits. The Iowa Artists Club awarded its 1935 first prize for his painting, "Stationary Engine"; the Iowa Art Salon gave him second place honors for the work, "Street –Midwest Town (1935)". The latter work represented Iowa at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and depicted a portion of Cascade, Iowa's Main Street district.

Known locally as an employee of Ottumwa's Union Bank and Trust, Funk's professional interests soon moved into industrial design and color engineering. His talents enabled companies to modify or improve retail window displays, burial vaults, lawn mowers, and color schemes for truck fleets. Funk lent his enthusiasm to redesign the interior, lighting, seating areas, and stage for the Ottumwa Armory-Coliseum. Most importantly, he was a pivotal force in the city's art association and led the efforts to establish the Ottumwa Community Art Center, which opened in 1939.

After experiencing much regional, design success, Funk relocated to Philadelphia, seeking to make industrial art his sole career. Research indicates that Funk was active in art communities within Los
Angeles and Venice, California. He eventually moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he died in 1985.

When Tillage Begins:The Stone City Art Colony and School,
Published online October 2003 by the Busse Library, Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born on Nov. 18, 1901 in Shenandoah, IA.  Funk studied at the AIC and USC.  He was a resident of Los Angeles in late 1930s while an employee of the WPA.  He died in May 1985 in Tucson, AZ. 

Exh: Artists Union (LA), 1939; All-Calif. Exhibition, 1939; LACMA, 1940; Palos Verdes AA, 1953.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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