You all are in trouble, because I am home tonight from ten weeks on the road and am taking the night for myself, writing about one of the Very Cool Things I learned in my travels. I expect there will be more stories along these lines in the next several weeks.
My great aunt was a WPA artist in Oregon. She was one of the artists who did weaving and other work on Timberline Lodge in Oregon. While in college, I did a paper on this amazing program and interviewed several artists about the tremendous impact on their lives. These programs are important. They help feed our souls. Thanks Heather for telling a piece of the story.
Don’t forget, people: the MAGA Republicans don’t support Rump because of his political and economic successes (if there are any), they don’t care about that. Every scandal, every indictment, every accusation, it doesn’t turn them away, it just makes their support stronger. Why? They support him BECAUSE he is an asshole, and teaches them that it’s fully ok (or even admirable) to be a misogynistic, racist asshole themsleves. He teaches them to hate, and they love that - and cannot therefore be reasoned with anymore.
The big difference between Rump and Biden is that Rump doesn’t care about ordinary people at all; if he would have frescoes painted, they would be about him, him, and more him, probably portrayed in a white toga and a crown of laurel at that (or with a red cape toting a shot gun). But Biden _does_ care about ordinary people, and it shows. And I think it’s important to get _that_ message across - to ordinary people…
As a museum exhibit professional, I have experienced the genius of the Earth's peoples through working with their material culture. Art is not an add-on. The arts are integral to our beings and cultures. Thank you for highlighting this historic support for the creative minds and hands of our nation. I hope we can continue to support and encourage those whose work has artistic value even if it does not bring monetary riches. We would be in a very dull and static world without them.
Thank you for this, Heather. Such a positive and hopeful piece tonight, incorporating art, San Francisco and progress which are all dear to my heart.
Great reminder that good government supports the voice of the people. Among those receiving WPA funding for the arts was writer and Songwriter Woody Guthrie, though he actually started with the WPA building projects. Another was Meridel LeSeuer, one of the outstanding writers of feminist and environmental matters of our time, and a long term President of the International Women’s League for Peace and Justice. Interestingly, Woody and Meridel were friends, and many a night was spent discussing issues while their children listened. Meridel’s daughter Rachel met Kenneth Tilsen on a picket line protesting segregation at the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul. They married and had a long life of activism including legal defense of the Morrill Hall Eight, Dennis Banks, Leonard Peltier, and the Native Americans in the FBI siege of Wounded Knee. Meridel’s great grandson Nick Tilsen today heads the NDN Collective, working for sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms. Bottom line: preserving the people’s voice through art echoes long, not just as artifact but as it molds our history. I was fortunate to meet Meridel, who was still writing in the 1990s, through Rachel, my good friend.
While on a work detail to Washington, D.C., in the early 70s, I worked in the Interior Building and was able to see the WPA works in what was at one time a cafeteria on the upper floor. Also all the wonderful things Mary Barber spoke of in Timberline Lodge!
A wonderful program, time for a reboot!
You are so right. Biden is a true New Dealer. He is definitely working to enhance and protect the lives of middle and working class Americans. He is restoring the Democratic Party legacy. I give him a lot of credit, despite my hesitancy to offer unfettered political support. Good job, Joe!
I do love a column about artists! My spouse is one, and I am a writer. Thank you, Heather. The arts are often an under appreciated part of the economy.
We need more stories from your new adventure to reinvigorate us to face the work ahead. More please!
You have been quite the dynamo.
So glad you found Coit Tower, hidden in the Library of Congress are the files, documents, photos, posters of the WPA art project. The sheer amounts of negatives (located in a digital archive) allows for visual time travel to the US in the 1930s. Everyday life is recorded across the breadth of the country. Reminding us of the poverty, but also the tremendous resiliency of the citizens. Also evidence of all the people, not just white people.
A magical time!! Art to not merely decorate, but to inspire.
It's rare that any of us would ever take exception to something in an HCR post. Yet, I must do this tonight. I must disagree that "(we) all are in trouble". I submit we are in your Debt, Professor.
For many here you are the main, if not single source of our factual news since MSM cannot seem to do it. You are a virtual one-person fact-based media outlet while the multi-billion $ stations have hundreds of staff and just can't (or won't) put out honest news. I, for one, am grateful for that.
As to the right-wing cult pretending to be a political party whose focus remains "owning the libs" instead of governing,...they have Failed. Instead they have inspired new groups armed in facts and ready to take them on. My personal fav: Dems Against MAGA Nutjobs,....(D.A.M.N.)....edit per Gus!
I lived in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco for many years. Coit Tower was my back yard. I viewed the murals many, many times and saw something new almost every time. They are indeed a national treasure that every visitor to San Francisco should take the time to see. Skip waiting in line for a cable car ride and go to Coit Tower instead. The view of the bay from there is as magnificent as the artwork just inside the door. Take the 37 bus from Washington Square in North Beach if you don’t want to walk up Lombard St to the top of Telegraph Hill. (Sorry, I digress. The memories from the 1970’s and 80’s are pouring out of my head right now.)
The Rincon Annex post office in San Francisco at Mission St and the Embarcadero I hope still has impressive WPA frescoe murals on its walls as well.
Both are examples of the many economic, social, and cultural treasures that emerged from the New Deal that have endured to enrich our country to this very day.
Next November we vote on whether to continue and add to that legacy or destroy it. As Woody Guthrie said way back then; “Which side are you on, boy…”
What a wonderful report! Government support for the arts matters! Art feeds our souls. We need a government that recognizes that without art America will literally become a soulless nation.
Which reminds me, I recently watched Joe Biden welcome this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House... a truly heart warming evening. I can’t wait to watch the actual event when it’s broadcast on TV! Here’s the White House welcoming ceremony...
Bravo HCR - I needed this tonight. Thank you.
I always love seeing the efforts of that period in our history at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. It's such a beautiful example of what you write about here and the short video there describes it so well. As for the second part of your letter today, almost everything about the economy is doing well and when the dissatisfaction is covered, no one ever attributes the reason for this as the media bubbles we live in. This is such an important factor in how people feel about pretty much everything. So many Americans are doing well right now but they're upset about the cost of eggs because their media is telling them to be upset. Their own experiences don't supersede their media messaging. That's just too scary. Every pollster should ask the media question and put it out there for the public.