During Hollywood’s golden age the 1920s through 1940s nearly every American city and town had its own movie palace. Whether a neon-clad jewel or of more modest proportion, the neighborhood theater was the anchor of community life. Designed in a wide range of flamboyant styles, the country’s historic theaters have entertained millions.
These lavish theaters offered moviegoers an escape into illusion during the Depression. But as the post-World War II boom fed migration to sprawling suburbs, many downtown palaces fell into disrepair or closed. Multiplexes later presented stiff competition by offering many films at one convenient location. The single-screen theater could no longer compete. These early theaters represent a unique architectural resource that is rapidly vanishing from the nation’s landscape.
My attachment to these theaters is both artistic and personal. I’ve had a long-held interest in 20th-century American popular culture, especially its visual attributes. From the ornate city palace to the intimate small-town movie house I strive to record this rapidly vanishing era in American popular culture. Through this series I explore the history of architecture and design, evolution of our social history and habits, and the importance of preserving a record of the past.”
Stefanie Klavens’ work focuses on the importance of place and documentation of visual aspects of the American social landscape. Her photographs encourage deeper thought into subject matter often taken for granted: historic single-screen movie palaces, disappearing drive-in theaters, and the quirky individuality displayed in private homes and places of business.
Klavens, a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant recipient, studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, where she received her BFA and was awarded a Traveling Fellowship. Solo exhibits include National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA; Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY; Vermont Center for Photography; and the New England Institute of Art, Brookline, MA. Her work has also been include in exhibits at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA; Panopticon Gallery, Boston, MA; The Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA; Houston Center for Photography, TX; the Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA; and Tufts University, Medford, MA. Her work has appeared in Yankee Magazine, the Boston Globe, Harpers Magazine and is held in many private collections