Saturday, June 9, 2012

John Steuart Curry & "1934: A New Deal for Artists"

Kelpe Machinery

Brackman Somewhere American

The Muskegon Museum of Art hosted the only Michigan appearance of 1934: A New Deal for Artists, a nationally touring exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum that celebrates the 75th anniversary of the first New Deal arts program—the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), February 16, 2012 through May 6, 2012.

Richardson Negro's Agriculture

The 55 paintings in 1934: A New Deal for Artists are drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection of artworks created for the PWAP and form a visual record of America in 1934—the worst year of the Great Depression.

The 1934 exhibition was requested from the Smithsonian for the MMA’s 100th Year exhibition roster as a fitting complement to the MMA’s collection, particularly one of its best-known paintings, Tornado Over Kansas. The great American Regionalist painter John Steuart Curry created this painting in 1929 at the beginning of the Depression. MMA director Frank Atwood Almy purchased it in 1935, on the cusp of that historic moment in time.

Eckel Radio Broadcast

In 1934, Americans grappled with an economic crisis that feels all too familiar today. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration created the Public Works of Art Project—the first federal government program to support the arts nationally. The program enlisted artists all across America to paint murals and canvases depicting “the American Scene” for display in public buildings. Regional subjects, including labor and leisure, city and rural life, nature and people, reminded the public of quintessential American values of hard work, community, and optimism.

Dickinson Valley Farms

Though the PWAP was short-lived—it lasted from December 1933 to June 1934—the works of art created with government support by grateful artists during the height of the Depression are some of art history’s finest testaments to American life and its can-do pioneer spirit.

1934: A New Deal for Artists is organized and circulated by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with support from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Endowment Fund and the Smithsonian Council for American Art. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

Bettersworth Christopher Street

Sheets Tenement