A hero takes many forms. There is the kind that saves lives, the kind borne out of quiet determination and advocacy, and the kind that exhibits bravery in the face of danger or adversity. Then there are those heroes that encapsulate a little of all of the above. Carson Smith was that kind.
Smith, an Art Academy of Cincinnati grad, arts advocate and World War II veteran, died December 1. He was 95.
Smith hailed from a family of artists and passionate Cincinnati arts advocates. He is predeceased by his sister Madge (Smith) Chidlaw whose love for the arts extended to her love for her husband, painter and AAC instructor and alumnus Paul Chidlaw.
“She loved children and donated several of Paul’s paintings to Children’s Hospital,” said Carson Smith of his sister in her 2004 obituary. “I always supported her in her arts, her and Paul. We were all good friends.”
Smith himself attended the AAC on his Nowotlny-Meakin-Rowe scholarship and graduated with a degree in Design and Portraiture in 1937. It was here Smith met William Hentschel, design instructor at AAC and Rookwood Pottery artist. Hentschel saw Smith’s talent and helped secure him a “summer job”, that lasted many years, both before and after his WWII service.
During WWII, Smith served as a ship-to-shore radio man for the Army, attached to the Navy. He served in 7 campaigns invading North Africa, Sicily, Southern France, Iwo Jima, Korea and Philippines. He received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in the Okinawa invasion.
Aside from his work at Rookwood Pottery, Smith was noted for his designs at Wadsworth Watch Case Co., including some for Helena Rubinstein Cosmetics. Smith’s career embraced beauty. He created intricate three-dimensional designs for pocket watches, cigarette holders and cosmetic cases. It was not unusual to see celebrities and even royalty using items he designed.
Smith most notably designed the Cadillac emblem, and while it has evolved quite extensively, is still the foundation for what is used today. The logo represents a shield with traditional figures in heraldry.
“As a fellow designer, I can attest to the rare accomplishment it is to design a logo that has been relevant for more than 50 years and very few designers achieve such a milestone in their career,” said John Sullivan, President of the Art Academy of Cincinnati. “Mr. Smith is an exemplary role model for our students and alumni.”
The AAC has a long history of creating artists who push the envelop with their designs and approach to art. Carson exemplified that. Until his retirement in 1990, Smith worked as an interior designer at Greiwe Interiors, where was recognized with a National Award for the original Pigall’s restaurant on 4th Street, downtown Cincinnati.
“Carson was a man of great distinction who was committed to and enjoyed the arts in Cincinnati,” said Dick Friedman, AAC Board Member. “He had a special fondness for the Art Academy for many decades and will be sorely missed.”