Archival Collections

SPACES—Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments—was incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments and other self-taught artistic activity. Founding Director Seymour Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization. Currently managed by Kohler Foundation in Kohler, Wisconsin, it boasts an archives of approximately 35,000 photographs as well as numerous books, articles, audio and video tapes/DVDs, and primary artists’ documents. The archives also include a clipping file, personal letters and correspondence from artists, scholars, researchers, museum and gallery personnel, arts and history/humanities councils, and governmental agencies.

What does SPACES Archives consist of?

SPACES has become recognized internationally as the largest and most extensive archive on this subject. The databases are generally organized into four components:

  1. The site database, which contains historically-significant and varied information on over 1,400 sites in the United States alone, as well as on numerous sites overseas;
  2. The bibliographic database, which includes almost 2,000 multi-lingual entries citing documents relating to art environments;
  3. The exhibitions and events database, a comprehensive chronological record of thousands of museum/gallery displays, conferences, lectures, panels, and other events which featured these artists and their sites, including documented audience figures for each; and, most importantly,
  4. The archival collection, including some 35,000 photographs, site plans, and primary documents produced by the artists, maps, artifacts, video and audio cassettes and DVDs of artist interviews, and other materials related to self-taught artistic activities. This also includes a clipping file, personal letters and correspondence from artists, scholars, researchers, museum and gallery personnel, arts and history/humanities councils, and governmental agencies.



Archives include clippings, correspondence, reports, and photographic prints, slides and negatives by Seymour Rosen. It also includes business records, correspondence, promotional and internal documents of the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, a 501(c) (3) organization whose mission was to advocate for the Towers, and ephemera from the Watts Towers Art Center.

Sources for this entry include Bill Billiter’s April 1979 article in ArtNews; CSRTW’s 1976 The Towers of Simon Rodia in Watts; N.J. (Bud) Goldstone and Arloa Paquin Goldstone’s 1997 The Los Angeles Watts Towers; Calvin Trillin’s 1965 article in The New Yorker; and Daniel Franklin Ward’s 1986 Simon Rodia and His Towers in Watts.

Sabato Rodia, Watts Towers Environment Page

Watts Towers Finding Aid (pdf)

Watts Towers Digital Archives



11.5 linear feet. Collection includes the following: Art Beal Foundation records (9 linear feet)
 6 Personal scrapbooks of artist (photos, clippings, personal correspond)
 2 music scrapbooks (incl. letters, contracts, copyrights, 1st songs, sheet music)
 1 oversized box (photos, sheet music, personal papers, pamphlets, ephemera)
 1 banker box (books, personal writings, artifacts).

Arthur ‘Art’ Harold Beal, Nitt Witt Ridge Environment Page

Arthur ‘Art’ Harold Beal Digital Archives



26.7 linear feet. Originally begun by Seymour Rosen, this collection of vertical files consist of materials such as newspaper clippings, articles, correspondence, pamphlets, maps, and other ephemera on art environments worldwide. These files also includes fifty U.S. state files that detail information on the political organizations of each state, so as to facilitate the nomination of sites to historical landmark status, or to cut through the bureaucratic red tape when trying to save those that are imperiled. View the SPACES Vertical Files Collection Index



4.2 linear feet. A collection of 35mm slides, black/white negatives, Polaroids, and prints documenting U.S. and Canadian art environments. View the Robert Foster Photographic Collection Index



2.6 linear feet. These vertical files cover art environments throughout the United States, and consist of materials such as newspaper clippings, articles, correspondence, pamphlets, maps, and other ephemera. View the Holly Metz Vertical Files Collection Index



4.2 linear feet. Catalogs, flyers, articles, and announcements for art exhibitions worldwide, pertaining to the archive’s focus, from 1935 to present.



52.5 linear feet. Collection of books and folios on subjects such as art environments, folk art, architecture, photography, California Art, individual artists, and exhibition books and catalogs. Click here to view the SPACES Library. 



Collection of small works by the artist-builders of art environments; these include discrete works gifted to SPACES as well as pieces salvaged from art environments that were dismantled or destroyed. Approximately 100 works in a variety of media. This collection was donated to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Click here to view highlights from the collection. 



13.2 linear feet. The Seymour Rosen Collection of Photographic Work, 1954-1991 (bulk 1954-1991) documents Seymour’s photographic work on art environments, self-taught art, prominent artists work, art exhibitions, architecture, nudes, documentary, and public events. The collection consists of three types of photographic media (Transparency Slides, Photographic Prints and Negatives) produced by Seymour Rosen between1954 and 1991. It also includes Seymour’s own attempt at photographic abstraction, darkroom manipulation, and nude portraiture.

Although primarily known as a documentary photographer, Rosen explored his creativity by casting a wide net; among other genres, he produced photograms, happenings, installation art, and a broad range of photographic expression. He exhibited and was acknowledged as a fine art photographer and installation artist during his lifetime, and his work continues to be extensively referenced and reproduced. The collection of photographs and negatives includes approximately 5,000 photographic prints, proofs, and negatives.



1.6 linear feet. Consists of newspaper clippings, articles and correspondence pertaining to Cornwell’s service as president of the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts (Unprocessed)



SPACES published a series of newsletters totaling 11 issues beginning in 1982 and ending in 1991. The purpose was to inform the reader of the status of art environments, review publications on art environments, and to provide updates on the work the non-profit was doing to support art environments.

SPACES Newsletter Digital Archives Collection

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