Tuesday, March 29, 2011

a new deal for the arts

It's no secret I have a serious lust for the early 1900s...from art and architecture to music and everyday American life. My current obsession focuses on the 1930s and the millions of Americans who struggled to survive The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in particular.

One source of pertinent history that's influenced me is the National Archive's "A New Deal for the Arts" online exhibit (a gift for those of us who weren't able to travel to D.C. for the 1997-98 exhibit at the National Archives Building).

Art took many forms such as plays, music, photography, playbills, posters, and paintings, and covered a variety of subjects, including "Rediscovering America", "Celebrating 'the people'", "Work Pays America", "Activist Art", and "Useful Art".

USA Work Program WPA by an unknown artist, Photolithograph (circa 1936)

Magnus Fossum, a WPA artist, copying the 1770 coverlet "Boston Town Pattern" for the
Index of American Design. (circa 1940)

Robert Sonkin and Charles Todd recording a fiddler at a Farm Security Camp in California
By Robert Hemmig, (circa 1940-41)

Words from their Website:
"The New Deal arts project provided work for jobless artists, but they also had a larger mission: to promote American art and culture and to give more Americans access to what President Franklin Roosevelt described as "an abundant life.

The projects saved thousands of artists from poverty and enabled Americans all across the country to see an original painting for the first time, attend their first professional live theater, or take their first music or drawing class.

Painting depicting the activities of the National Youth Administration
By Alden Krider, Kansas National Youth Administration, Oil on canvas (circa 1936)

Perhaps I am drawn to this collection because art is central to who I am (you've heard me say before that "art is my compass--without it I am lost"). Well, I can only imagine these artists' sense of relief and fulfillment once they were given the opportunities to exercise their craft.

I invite you to browse the collection and share your impressions here.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very informative. I had no idea of the WPA. Your spirit shows so brightly in your posts. Denise