Liza Kirwin’s 10 Favorite Lists from the Smithsonian’s Archives


James Penney, to-do lists, July 1932. James Penney papers, 1913–84. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

4. James Penney (1910–1982)
Penney came from the University of Kansas to New York City in 1931 to study at the Art Students League of New York. In his 1932 sketchbook he made a list of survival tips, including “spend what you have on materials” and “don’t go back to Kansas.” On the opposite page he sketched the steel joints, lifting hooks, and pulleys in the construction of Radio City Music Hall. Penney remained in New York, won numerous mural commissions, and became a notable teacher, who, no doubt, imparted his survival skills to generations of art students.