SEARCH UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Prepared by Ron Antonucci, December 17, 1996; revised and added to by Edith Serkownek, July 2011
13 boxes (2 record storage boxes, 1 document box, 5 costume boxes, 1 flat box, 1 oversized flat box, 3 small storage boxes), 14 cubic feet, 11th floor
The Kokoon Arts Club was founded in 1911 by a group of young Cleveland artists including William Sommer, Carl Moellmann, Morris Grossman, Elmer Brubeck, and Harry Stebner. According to James Shelley's article in The Gamut, the organization's inspiration and aims were based largely "on the bohemian spirit of the Kit Kat Klub in New York." The club's roster would later note that the name derived from "the lowly cocoon...forerunner of the beautiful butterfly (in) hope that from this small beginning something of beauty should develop and emerge." The club was intended to give members the opportunity to exercise their individual artistic aims. Members held classes with live models, exhibited their work and the work of others in the club's gallery spaces and went on summer sketching trips.
The fledgling club held its first Bal Masque in the winter of 1913 in hopes "of replenishing the coffers." It would be the first of many. The annual costume bal became a popular, if notorious event that kept the Kokoon Arts Club in the spotlight well into the 1930s. The Bals were publicized using handbills and lavish, often daring, poster art. Several of these posters and excellent examples of the members' artwork -- some original -- are included in the collection. The club also held highly successful art auctions, curb marts and other parties and events.
The club moved its headquarters frequently during the early years: to Superior Avenue near Public Square in 1912; to Euclid Avenue near Huron in 1919; to "the old Schofield home" at 2121 East 21st Street in 1921 where it remained until 1930, when the club bought "the former Van Camp home" on East 40th Street.
Membership in the Kokoon Arts Club began to decline in the 1940s. The last Kokoon Arts Club Bal was held in 1946, although the club officially continued on for another decade.
Philip Kaplan was born in Grodno, Russia in 1903 and came to the United States with his family in 1911. Eventually settling in Cleveland, Kaplan left school after eighth grade and began working a number of different jobs. At 19, Kaplan discovered Richard Laukhuff's bookshop and through it developed an avid interest in the European and American artistic and literary movements of the day. Attending evening classes at the Cleveland School of Art and at the Kokoon Arts Club prepared him to begin working as a professional artist. In the late 1920s and 1930s Kaplan worked as a decorative painter, painting murals in homes, schools and business in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. He also worked as an amateur photographer and lithographer. Kaplan received awards in the Cleveland Museum of Art's annual May shows in 1929 and 1930. In 1933 he married Esther Rose and their daughter, Luba, was born in 1935.
Kaplan joined the Kokoon Arts Club in in 1925 and became a very active member, serving in a number of posts including secretary (1927) and president (1932). According to his own notes, Kaplan left the Kokoon Arts Club in the late 1930s following an incident in which a fellow member, Rudolf Schatz, spread an anti-semitic leaflet around the club. Kaplan wrote a protest letter, but few club members supported his response, most feeling it was better to ignore the original leaflet.
During his time in Cleveland, Philip Kaplan established many connections with area artists and those involved in arts and literature. He exchanged correspondence with and received examples of others' work often in the form of hand-made cards, photographs, invitations, playbills and catalogs.
In 1939 Kaplan moved to New York City, where he worked for commercial printing firms until his retirement in 1965. He died in California in 1990 at age 87.
For additional information on Philip Kaplan see also the Philip Kaplan and Hermine Laukhuff, Papers, 1959-1985.
Papers pertaining to Philip Kaplan and the Kokoon Arts Club (or Klub) of Cleveland were given to the Department of Special Collections and Archives in 1994, by Luba Paz of Los Angeles with additions made in 2004. Paz is the daughter of the late Philip Kaplan, a Cleveland artist and past Kokoon Arts Club president.
The Kokoon Arts Club papers include costumes, correspondence, invitations, newspaper clippings, photographs and posters which document the club's activities during in the 1920s and 30s. The material was collected by Kaplan during the period when he was most active in the club.
This collection also includes correspondence, drawing, sketches and prints, newspaper clippings and photographs relating to Kaplan's own artistic career and activities and those of his friends, many of whom were important locally and nationally-known artists including William Sommer and Russell "Butch" Limbach.
Kokoon Arts Club material including correspondence, membership information, invitations, photographs and newspaper clippings organized chronologically. Material pertaining to the annual Kokoon Arts Club Artists' Curb Marts and the Bal Masques has been organized separately. Oversized material is housed in the 11th floor map case.
Kokoon Arts Club annual Artists' Curb Mart material organized chronologically. This material including minutes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs and publicity. Oversized material housed in the 11th floor map case.
Kokoon Arts Club's annual Bal Masque material organized chronologically. This material includes invitations, programs, tickets, newspaper clippings and photographs. Oversized material housed in the 11th floor map case. Connect to a list of many of the Bal Masque dates, themes and locations.
Material related to the use of luminescent (black-light and Day-Glo) paint. This material may have been collected by Philip Kaplan as part of the Kokoon Arts Club's experiments with the use of luminescent paint, most notably in the decorations and costumes for the club's 1938, Black Light Bal. This material includes luminescent paint product information and articles, photographs of advertising billboards employing luminescent paint and photographs of club members experimenting with luminescent products. Material organized chronologically and by object type.
Photographs of costumed and partially nude women. These women may have been models at the Kokoon Arts Club as well as local Burlesque performers. Organized by name of individual or photographer.
Oversized Kokoon Arts Club posters, invitations, and papers organized chronologically. Oversized Artists' Curb Mart and the Bal Masque material has been organized separately. Poster measurements are rounded. The files listed below are housed in the 11th floor Map case.
Oversized Kokoon Arts Club Artists' Curb Mart posters organized chronologically.
Oversized Kokoon Arts Club Bal Masque posters and artwork organized chronologically.
Scarab Club posters. These posters may be from a Detroit arts club similar to the Kokoon Arts Club in its history and aims.
Kokoon Arts Club Bal Masque plaster of Paris souvenir plaques organized chronologically.
Bal Masque: February 5, 1926: Man's costume worn by Philip Kaplan: 1 piece
Bal Papillon: February 13, 1931: Woman's head-dress worn by Esther Rose (Kaplan): 1 piece
Bal Masque: February 5, 1926: Man's costume worn by unidentified individual: 3 pieces
Bal Papillon: February 13, 1931 and Bal Risque: February 24, 1934: Man's costume worn by Philip Kaplan: 4 pieces. The shirt and pantaloons of this costume were worn by Philip Kaplan at both the 1931 and the 1934 Bals. Hand painted musicians and musical notes were added to the pantaloons and black pompons were sewn on the arm of the shirt for the 1934 Bal. The cummerbund was used only in the 1931 Bal and the beret was used only at 1934 Bal.
Bal Risque: February 24, 1934 and Black Light Bal: March 12, 1938: Woman's Pied Piper costume worn by Esther (Rose) Kaplan: 5 pieces. The toy plastic rats appear to have been added to the costume for the 1938 Black Light Bal. The plastic rats and the women's shoes are painted with luminescent paint that glows under black-light.
Bal Artistique: March 1, 1935: Man's costume worn by Philip Kaplan: 1 piece.
Bal Artistique: March 1, 1935: Woman's costume worn by Esther (Rose) Kaplan: 3 pieces.
Unidentified Bal costumes: 4 pieces. Three of the costume pieces incorporate moon and star themes, suggesting that they may have been worn at the Once in a Blue Moon Masquette: February 18, 1933.
Philip Kaplan correspondence and invitations organized chronologically.
Philip Kaplan material organized chronolgically and by object type. Material includes artwork, publications, theater programs, newspaper clippings, photographs and notes.
Individual artist files organized by individual's last name. Research note: Material relating to individual artists in their role as Kokoon Arts Club members and associates (for example an invitation to an exhibition of an artist's work at the club) is filed within the Kokoon Arts Club material, Box 1.
Philip Kaplan knew and maintained contact with many area artists (both members and non-members of the Kokoon Arts Club). He corresponded with many writers and artists and collected examples of their work and publications.
The Kokoon Arts Club Narrative and Roster of January 1931 was checked to determine if the individuals below were members. However, if a person was a member before or after this date, membership might not be noted. S.A. Anderson was a Kokoon Arts Club member and commercial artist. August Biehle was a Kokoon Arts Club member, painter and lithographic artist. According to Kaplan, Horace Carr was a printer and "disciple of William Morris," who was responsible for printing the small bulletins which came from Laukhoff's bookstore. Albert Duval was a photographer who took images of many Kokoon Arts Club activities and members as well as exhibiting at the club although it is not known if he was a member. Everett Jones was a career criminal who became a writer and editor of The New Day, the Ohio State Reformatory prisoner publication. He was executed about 1935. Richard and Hermine Laukhuff were owners of Laukhuff's bookstore in Cleveland which opened in 1916. Bookmarks and other in-house publications were often designed by local artists. Kaplan wandered into Laukhuff's store as a young man and became a life-long collector. (Research note: See also Philip Kaplan and Hermine Laukhuff, Papers, 1959-1985). William Lescaze was a modern architect. Russell "Butch" Limbach was an artist known for his social realist paintings and prints. Limbach and Kaplan collaborated on a number of projects together. Flozari Rockwood was a Burlesque dancer and self-trained poet. Richard Rychtarik was an artist who became a set and costume designer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Teresa Schmotzer, a graduate of the Cleveland School of Art, was a printmaker and designer. William Sommer was a founder and long-time Kokoon Arts Club member. He was a commercial printer and a painter who studied under Degas. William Zorach a well-known printmaker, painter and sculptor exhibited at the Kokoon Arts Club. He married Marguerite Thompson, a painter.
Oversized artwork organized by individual's last name.
Issues of Parade, a weekly Cleveland society magazine to which Kaplan and his friends often contributed, organized chronologically.