“It’s the Art” of Olympia Beer Advertising

by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

“It’s the water” is the slogan that put Olympia on the map — even though Olympia Beer was brewed in Tumwater. Now the Olympia Tumwater Foundation is hosting an art show called It’s the Art! It’s sponsored by O Bee Credit Union and features 58 advertising artworks created for the Olympia Brewing Company from the 1930s through the 1950s. The exhibition is guest-curated by Art Chantry, a nationally recognized poster artist and art historian who’s often associated with the album covers and posters he created for such as Pacific Northwest bands as Mono Men, Mudhoney, The Sonics and Soundgarden.

Foundation spokesperson Karen Johnson says, “Some of the works are not signed; therefore we don’t know who the artists were. However, six artists have been identified. One artist in particular is interesting. His name was Rudolph (Rudy) Bundas. He had a successful career as a commercial artist in Seattle and did a lot of work for Olympia Brewing Company. Besides painting billboard art, he also created Christmas cards, art for beer cartons and cover art for the “It’s the Water” newsletter for brewery employees. Bundas also painted portraits of Lyndon B. Johnson and other politicians.”

Also on display will be such related materials as the flocked banners depicted in some of the billboards. “We hope that the public will enjoy the chance to see this artwork,” Johnson says, “that’s been tucked away for decades. Art Chantry and his colleagues were thrilled to see this art, which generally has not survived — All the pieces were meant to be thrown away after being translated into billboards. Our staff has certainly enjoyed seeing these works and learning about them, the artists and the art processes from decades ago. If this fall’s art show generates enough interest and attendance, we’d be open to doing a second art show next year or the year after, exhibiting still more of these rare survivors from years past.”

What: It’s the Art! Olympia Beer Advertising Art Show

Where: The Schmidt House,
330 Schmidt Place SW, Tumwater

When: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Nov. 4 – Dec. 9

How much: free (donations welcome)

Learn more: 360-890-2299 | Olympia Tumwater Foundation

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