State Department officials have long known that most foreign visitors would rather see Disneyland than the Capitol or other sober-minded American landmarks.
Now, State's Art in Embassies program -- not worrying that someone might call it a Mickey Mouse project -- is acknowledging that interest by sending paintings from "The Art of Disneyland -- 1953-1986" to American embassies in Paris, Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo. The paintings are renderings of Disneyland settings.
"New Orleans Square, General View" by Herb Ryman is going to our Paris embassy as the first. Ryman earlier worked on story sketches and background paintings for "Pinocchio" and "Dumbo," among other movies. The painting, according to Disneyland spokesmen, is appropriate because Baroness de Pontalba, who once owned the ambassador's residence, was a New Orleans native.
State's Art in Embassies program pays only administrative costs (salaries and office expenses for director Lee Kimche McGrath and her three-person staff) to arrange for art and to pay for transportation and insurance for the artworks. It's the bread for the jam spread by its private arm, the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies, a nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation of public-spirited, dues-paying members who help solicit both art and money to buy art -- paintings, sculpture and decorative arts -- and to preserve it.
The Friends are contributing money to redecorate the entertaining rooms of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing -- the cost hasn't been estimated yet -- and $40,000 to complete the presidential suite in Paris.
Last year, 300 works of art were donated and 600 lent to the program. The permanent collection, begun in 1964, numbers about a thousand. Another 2,320 pieces are borrowed from museums, private dealers, collectors and the artists themselves. Currently, these works are on exhibit in American embassy residences in 114 countries, says McGrath. Ann (Mrs. Graham) Gund of Boston is chairman of the committee to encourage the donations and loans.
The Art in Embassies program tries to choose exhibitions appropriate to diplomatic posts. For instance, Pyramid Atlantic in Takoma Park sent a collection of artworks on paper to our embassy in Korea, where handmade papers are a tradition. Mystic Seaport Museum lent a yacht-racing picture, "Volunteer 1887" by James Buttersworth, to the U.S. embassy in Canberra, Australia, in honor of the America's Cup race. And two big exhibits of American contemporary art have gone to countries where such art is unfamiliar -- the Frederick Weisman collection to Moscow (Lee Krasner, Frank Stella, Josef Albers, Morris Louis) and Museum of Modern Art selection to Beijing (Helen Frankenthaler, Milton Avery and Adolph Gottlieb).
Gifts to the permanent collection of the Friends program include two silk-screen prints each from Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder, and two antique Sheffield serving platters and domes with carts.
Tuesday, the 200 or so Friends members from all over the country will celebrate their first anniversary with a daylong extravaganza. They have every reason to celebrate. In just a year, the Friends have raised about $450,000 for their projects, with pledges of another $250,000 over the next five to 10 years. Yearly donations begin with as little as $50 for associate members, $5,000 for corporate members (Los Angeles tycoon David Murdock chairs this committee) and up to $10,000 annually for a 10-year pledge of $100,000 for founding members.
The Day of the Friends begins with a luncheon meeting in the Smithsonian's new underground S. Dillon Ripley International Center. They'll hardly have time to change before going on to cocktails at the White House. And the day climaxes with a black-tie/glittering-jewel dinner in the Benjamin Franklin great hall of the State Diplomatic Reception Rooms.
Leonore Annenberg, Friends chairman, Wendy Luers, president, and Daniel J. Terra, honorary chairman, are giving the dinner for the Friends, honoring Secretary of State George P. Shultz and his wife Helena. Merrill Lynch & Co. -- before the crash -- picked up the tab. The table decor and invitations were given by Tiffany & Co.
APPROPRIATE PARTY FOODS OF THE WEEK: At the corporate and patron parties following the opening performances of "North Shore Fish," the Studio Theatre, celebrating its new home at the corner of 14th and P streets NW, served -- fish. But instead of the wooden shake-and-bake (the recipe consists of glue, sawdust and polyurethane) fish that swam through all acts on the stage, the party-goers' catch was shrimp and clams. At a 9 a.m. preview for the Georgia O'Keeffe show at the National Gallery of Art, breakfasters feasted on tortillas with jalapenåo salsa, sugar-cured bacon, New Mexico sausages, blue-flower corn bread and Southwestern preserves. A party around the pool in Explorers Hall at the National Geographic Building celebrated publication of "The National Geographic Society: 100 Years of Adventure and Discovery" (Abrams) by C.D.B. Bryan. Instead of a world-wide menu, mostly British beef and trifle pudding from the British heritage of the society's founding patriarch, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, gave a substantial repast.