Alfred Pelikan was born into a family of circus performers in Breslau, Germany in 1893. Not joining the family business, Pelikan went to school at Maysfield, Sussex, England and King’s College in Oxford. In 1911, he immigrated to the United States and became a pre-med student at Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg. He then entered Carnegie Institute of Technology where he studied art and art education. Pelikan received his B.A. in 1919.
From 1920 to 1925, Pelikan worked as the Director of the Grand Rapids School of Art and Industry. After one year in the position, Pelikan became a citizen of the country. During his job as Director, Pelikan continued his education at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. At Columbia, he studied under Eugene Savage, Salem Hubbel, and Charles Hawthorne. Pelikan received his M.A. in 1926 and moved to Milwaukee to serve as the Director of the Milwaukee Art Institute until 1941 and the Director of Art Education for Milwaukee Public School system until 1962.
Pelikan was instrumental in exposing the Midwest to the traveling exhibitions of the New York Museum of Modern Art. He also organized the annual Milwaukee Journal Student Art Calendar Competition. The artist authored “The Art of the Child” (1931) and “The Graphic Aids” (1931). He co-authored “Simple Metalwork” (1940).