Irene Vermeers, Art Center’s First School Photographer

Irene Vermeers, circa 1936. Gift of Irene Vermeers PHOT '37.

Guest post by Art Center Archivist Robert Dirig

This week for Women’s History Month we spotlight one of Art Center’s earliest students and the College’s first school photographer, Irene (Gutterman) Vermeers.

Irene was a Photography major who graduated from Art Center in 1937.

Working as the school photographer to help pay tuition, Vermeers documented Art Center’s faculty, students, student work and classes across all academic departments.

A number of her images appeared in the 1937 catalog, including her portrait of a man, which can be seen on this page from the 1937 catalog showcasing Photography Department student work.

1937 Art Center catalog (click to enlarge).

In this photograph from circa 1936, Art Center’s first president and instructor Edward A. “Tink” Adams is shown demonstrating a drawing technique in class.

"Mr. Adams—teaching students." Gift of Irene Vermeers PHOT '37.

One project Vermeers heavily photographed was an Industrial Design Department class project from the mid-1930s taught by Kem Weber, whose objective was to design and build a model for a future Art Center campus.

Students work on an architectural model of a future campus, circa 1936. Gift of Irene Vermeers PHOT '37.

Some of her images were less formal and capture rare candid images of students. This photograph shows a student working on an advertising piece for Travelers Cheques in what students called the Night Club, which was a room at the 7th Street campus where they worked all night. 

Gift of Irene Vermeers PHOT '37.

We are incredibly fortunate that in the early 2000s, Vermeers donated over 200 of her original prints and negatives to Art Center. Her collection contains some of the earliest photographs we have in our College Archives and serves as an excellent document of the 7th Street era. In addition, she donated her original camera and tripod that she used as a student.

It was at Art Center that Irene met her future husband, Art Vermeers, who studied industrial design. They married after graduating, and went on to start a family. Irene Vermeers died at the age of 96 in October 2008. Her contributions to Art Center will always remain historically significant.

To visit Art Center’s Archives or to donate materials, contact Art Center Archivist Robert Dirig at 626.396.2208 or

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