Pat Allott Silbert donates graphic art work to the NEJL

Recently, the NEJL received a wonderful donation of brochures and posters from Pat A. Silbert, who was the Assistant Art Director of the OEO. Silbert designed many of the remarkable posters and brochures for the legal services program, including the stunning cover of the first annual report of the OEO-Legal Services program to the ABA in 1966. Silbert also worked as a graphic designer for the LSC and designed all annual reports of the LSC from 1976-1981. She also took many of the photographs in LSC’s first reports. Silbert’s intelligent, bold, modern graphic design captured the essence of the dynamic legal services program that emerged in the 1960s.

Pat Allott (Silbert) and Peter Masters at work on the Profile on Poverty exhibition, 1965.
Photo donated by Pat A. Silbert.

In a biographical sketch, Silbert recalls how she walked into the office of OEO’s Art Director, Peter Masters, in 1964, determined to work for the new agency. Masters told her that they would not get paid until they received the first appropriation from Congress. However, they worked day and night, and loved the work. When she finally got paid, her salary was much larger than at the advertising agency where she had previously worked. “At the time, the Federal Government was the only employer that did not discriminate in pay against women,” she writes.

She writes that they loved “Sarge,” “the most enthusiastic, hard-working. hard-driving boss ever. We were happy to get the work done by his sometimes impossible deadlines. This involved designing posters, brochures, car cards, and then getting them printed in much less time than the Government Printing Office had ever imagined.”

Since the OEO was a new government agency, they could do things somewhat “more innovative than at other agencies.” Among her projects was the major Profiles of Poverty exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology, which featured over a quarter million photographs by more than 100 photographers. Silbert also donated photographs showing her working at the exhibit, and from the opening of the exhibit with Hubert Humphrey and Sargent Shriver. Shriver greatly valued Silbert’s work, and her collection includes reproduction of several notes of appreciation from him, as well as from Gary Bellow and Hubert Humphrey.

Silbert graduated from the Corcoran School of Art and, after working at the OEO, worked as a  freelance graphic designer in the DC area, where she also worked for the LSC. She then turned to painting full-time, and is currently a partner at Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda.
The Pat A. Silbert collection is available at the NEJL.

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