Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Should Go

One of the most amazing things that FDR worked into the Works Projects Administration (WPA) was an emphasis not only on building infrastructure, but also on the arts. It's been funny (well, not "funny, ha, ha") to watch the wingnuts flat-out lie over the past six months in an attempt to discredit the WPA.

The Smithsonian has an exhibit (that I really want to see) showcasing some of the art produced by the WPA.

In 1934, Americans grappled with an economic situation that feels all too familiar today. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the U.S. government created the Public Works of Art Program—the first federal government program to support the arts. Officials in the Roosevelt administration understood how essential art was to sustaining America's spirit. Artists from across the United States who participated in the program, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934, were encouraged to depict the American scene. The Public Works of Art Program not only paid artists to embellish public buildings, but also provided them with a sense of pride in serving their country. They painted regional, recognizable subjects—ranging from portraits to cityscapes and images of city life to landscapes and depictions of rural life—that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work, community and optimism.

1934: A New Deal for Artists celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Program by drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum's unparalleled collection of vibrant paintings created for the program. The 56 paintings in the exhibition are a lasting visual record of America at a specific moment in time. George Gurney, deputy chief curator, organized the exhibition with Ann Prentice Wagner, curatorial associate. The exhibition will begin a three-year national tour in 2010.

Here's a slide show of the art. I'm mad for about a dozen of them (check out Racing) and G/Son would love the train scenes.


nanoboy said...

In Oklahoma, a lot of the old buildings and such from the '30s have art in them. When they built stuff during that era, they built it for the ages. Since then, especially as the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s came along, it got more and more temporary in feeling. It's built in a way that seems to say, "I'm just a building. Tear me down if you need to."

I'd love to see a renaissance of better public architecture, more permanent and monumental, decked in art, a sense of purpose, and a sense of democracy. Perhaps we'll get there. It would employ a lot of people, and we could feel proud about what happened in this era.

clymela said...

I love this art. I ran to my bookcase to pull out the Anais Nin journal of those years: she captured some of the background because she knes some of the artists.
I am home with a disabled arm and pain medication so I plan to reread Nin and do some research on this period of American culture.