Art in Action was an exhibit of artists at work displayed for four months in the summer of 1940 at the Golden Gate International Exposition GGIE held on Treasure Island.Many famous artists took part in the exhibit, including Dudley C. Carter, woodcarver and Diego Rivera, muralist. Rivera painted his monumental work Pan American Unity at Art in Action.
During the first year of the Exposition, the investors failed to make a profit and the GGIE committee decided to extend the fair for one more year.The exhibition’s second season ran from May 25, 1940 through September 29, 1940, and featured lower ticket prices and a collection of new attractions.Art in Action opened on June 1, a week after the main Exposition, and closed at the same time as the rest of the Exposition.
Timothy L. Pflueger, architect and member of the GGIE design committee, came up with a plan to have an exhibition of artists on display. He contacted a wide array of artists to show their talents to the public while working within the “Fine Arts Palace”, a concrete and steel industrial building measuring 335 by 78 feet intended to be an aircraft hangar after the Exposition closed. For the second time, Pflueger brought Rivera to San Francisco to paint a mural, this time as the main attraction at Art in Action.
Alfred Frankenstein of the New York Times reported from the opening day and wrote “Here the visitor is privileged to observe a kind of twenty-ring circus of art… On the floor, in a series of little ateliers, sculptors, painters, lithographers, etchers, ceramicists, weavers and whatnot are at work under the direct observation of the public.”On July 29, 1940, LIFE magazine ran a story about Art in Action using a spread of color photos.