Santa Claus to meet children at Oglethorpe Museum of Art

An exhibition of paintings of Santa Claus that artist Haddon Sundblom created for Coca-Cola ads has been extended through Dec. 21. Santa Claus and Elf Evie will appear at the museum to greet children on Dec. 7, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. Photography of Santa, the elf and children is encouraged.

When: Santa appears Dec. 4, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21, 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. The museum is open to the public from noon until 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

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Where: Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, located on the Oglethorpe University campus at 4484 Peachtree Street NE in Brookhaven.

Cost: Free for children 12 and younger. Museum admission for adults cost $5.

One of the Santa Claus paintings on display at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.
One of the Santa Claus paintings on display at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.

Santa Claus is scheduled to appear during December both in paintings and in person at the Oglethorpe University Art Museum.

The museum has extended through Dec. 21 its show of portraits of Santa by Haddon Sundblom, a commercial artist who conjured the familiar red-coated holiday symbol that appeared in numerous ads for Coca-Cola. The show, which opened in September, includes 10 paintings, many coupled with the colorful ads in which they appeared. The show includes Sundblom paintings done from 1929 through the 1960s.

“People will disparage art done for advertizing, but he was an incredible painter,” said Elizabeth Peterson, the museum’s director and curator of the show, which is composed of paintings from the Coca-Cola Co.’s archives. “The folks at Coke compare him to Norman Rockwell and I don’t disagree.”

On Dec. 14 and Dec. 21, the museum will host an appearance by a live Santa and his associate, an elf named Evie. They are scheduled to be on hand from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. to meet and chat with children who come to the museum. Parents are encouraged to take photos, the museum says on its website. “No lines. No waiting,” Peterson said.

Peterson selected the paintings on display at the museum, which is known as OUMA. She said some museum-goers who have come in to see other shows have disparaged the Santa show as simple commercialism. “I love that we had it here and we had it cheek and jowl by [a show of works by 20th century French painters Fernand] Leger and [Georges] Braque,” she said. “I’ve had people come in say, ‘I love Santa Claus,’ and I’ve had people come in who were very condescending.”

She hopes the Sundblom show will help dispel that belief that advertising art should be seen as “less than” fine art. She also thinks it’s valuable for art students, especially those hoping to find a way to make a living. Sundblom, who was born in 1899 and died in 1976, worked for an ad agency in Chicago, Peterson said.

“Advertising art is an extremely important and relevant field” for students, especially those working with new media, she said. “Advertizing and new media, in particular, is a very lucrative and hot version of what you can do with an art degree.”

Besides, she said, the show fits the season.

“Personally, I wanted to do it because I’m a Christmas fanatic,” she said. “I firmly believe that living in the world of your imagination is something that people discount. They value it, but they discount it. …. Using your imagination is important. I think adults should learn to play again.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.