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1934: A New Deal for Artists








Walker Galleries A & B
This nationally touring exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Project by drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum's unparalleled collection of vibrant artworks created for the program.

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.

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 worst year 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 celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Project with 55 paintings drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection of artworks created for the program.

1934 celebrates another anniversary as well—the MMA’s 100th year. The exhibition is a fitting complement to one our finest “pictures of the best kind” and one of the greatest American-art icons: John Steuart Curry’s Tornado Over Kansas. Painted by Curry in 1929 at the beginning of the Depression, it was purchased by MMA director Frank Atwood Almy in 1935, on the cusp of this historic moment in time.

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.  This exclusive Michigan presentation is sponsored by the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and Grand Valley State University. Programming is made possible through a grant from the support from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and through additional support from Grand Valley State University; the Our Daily Lives, Our Daily Work Program at MSU; and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media sponsors are WGVU Public Radio and the Muskegon Chronicle. 

 

RELATED PROGRAMS

RELATED PROGRAMS

All programs will be held at the Muskegon Museum of Art and are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted. 

 

January 16 through March 23, 2012 

Regionalism and the Art of the WPA: Selections from the Muskegon Museum of Art

At Grand Valley State University 

The GVSU Art Gallery, Allendale campus, will display an exhibition of Regionalist WPA-era works of art drawn from the MMA collection this winter. An opening celebration for the exhibition will be held at the GVSU Art Gallery on Thursday, January 19, starting at 5:00 pm. The reception is free and open to the public.

 

Thursdays, 1:00-3:00 pm

Open Tours

1934: A New Deal for Artists

Drop in for a tour led by MMA docents. Reservations are not required. Underwritten by Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, February 16

1934: A New Deal for Artists

Opening Event at the MMA

5:30 pm Reception 

Celebrate the opening of 1934: A New Deal for Artists—newly arrived from the Smithsonian American Museum of Art. 

7:00 pm Lecture

New Deal Artists: Context and Culture 

Presented by Susan Bandes, MSU Art History Professor 

Most New Deal art was representational and rooted in a sense of place. Bandes will consider several artists in her lecture—including Ivan Albright, Paul Kelpe, Ilya Bolotowsky, and Millard Sheets—placing their paintings in the exhibition within the context of their distinguished careers. Additionally, she will discuss how WPA artists such as Charles Pollock and Edgar Yaeger responded to commissions in Michigan. Bandes is a Professor of Art History at Michigan State University and the Co-Director of the MSU Museum Studies Program. She also serves as adjunct curator at the Michigan State University Museum. 

 

Thursday, February 23, 12:15 pm

Brown Bag Film

Wild Boys of the Road

(68 mins.) This 1933 film tells the story of two boys from California, whose once comfortable lives have been ruined by the Depression. They leave home with the hope of finding work elsewhere. Free admission, cookies, and coffee. Docent-led tours of 1934: A New Deal for Artists will be held following the film. Brown Bag Films and Thursday tours are underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, February 23

FDR, Live! A New Deal Historical Performance 

Presented by John Hamant

5:30 pm Reception

7:00 pm Performance

MMA Auditorium

Actor John Hamant’s portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was developed for a special Colonial Williamsburg historical site program. Hamant performed as the 32nd president at the site over the next nine years, and now brings FDR to life for more distant audiences. Hamant holds a B.F.A. in Theatrical Production and an M.A. in Acting and Directing. A life-long interest in history prompted him to turn from a full-time acting career to the educational efforts of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

 

Sundays, March 4 & 18, 1:00-2:00 pm

Sunday Tours

1934: A New Deal for Artists

Drop in for a tour led by MMA docents. Reservations are not required. free for MMA members and Muskegon Community College students, or with paid Museum admission. Underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet. Stay after tours for Cinema Sundays films at 2:00 pm, underwritten by Muskegon Community College.

 

Sunday, March 4, 2:00 pm

Cinema Sundays Film

Gabriel Over the White House

Director: Gregory La Cava, 1933, 86 mins.

In this provocative vision of a future Roosevelt-like administration, a callous president is a changed man after a serious accident, embarking on a bizarre and fascist-tinged reformation of the country before bending international relations to his surreal vision of “world peace.” Presented by E.J. Hamacher. Admission is free for MMA members and Muskegon Community College students, or with paid Museum admission. Cinema Sundays are underwritten by Muskegon Community College.

 

Thursday, March 8, 12:15 pm

Brown Bag Film

American Visions: Streamlines and Breadlines 

(60 mins.) In this chapter of the American Visions series, Robert Hughes examines the progress of American art between 1929 and 1941, as the country struggled out of deep depression into an era of new prosperity. Free admission, cookies, and coffee. Docent-led tours of 1934: A New Deal for Artists will be held following the film. Brown Bag Films and Thursday tours are underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, March 15, 7:00 pm

Pare Lorentz, New Deal filmmaker

Lecture and Film Presented by E.J. Hamacher

Film: The River (1938), Written and directed by Pare Lorentz. Score by Virgil Thomson. Winner “Best Documentary” at the 1938 Venice Film Festival.

Lecture: Funded by FDR’s Resettlement Administration, the short-lived U.S. Film Service (1935-40) bucked Hollywood and set out to make its own films about the struggles of the American people. Outspoken film critic Pare Lorentz was put in charge of this new program and he recruited a stable of top talent from the radical artists associated with the New York Film and Photo League. Together they re-invented the bland newsreel and set it on the path towards the gripping style of investigative documentary film we know and love today.

 

Sunday, March 18, 2:00 pm

Cinema Sundays Film

Native Land

Directors Leo Hurwitz & Paul Strand, 1942, 80 mins.

Based on testimony from the 1938 U.S. Senate La Follette Committee on Civil Liberties, this radical, independently-produced docudrama builds an uncompromising argument for organized labor by dramatizing real-life violations of the Bill of Rights in the early 1930s by the greedy owners of corporate Big Business. Presented by E.J. Hamacher. Admission is free for MMA members and Muskegon Community College students, or with paid Museum admission. Cinema Sundays are underwritten by Muskegon Community College.

 

Thursday, March 22, 12:15 pm

Brown Bag Film

American Experience: Civilian Conservation Corp 

(52 mins.) Learn about one of the most popular New Deal programs—the CCC—that put three million young men to work in camps across America during the height of the Great Depression. This film is part of the popular PBS American Experience history series. Free admission, cookies, and coffee. Docent-led tours of 1934: A New Deal for Artists will be held following the film. Brown Bag Films and Thursday tours are underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, March 22, 7:00 pm

Musical Performance 

Aaron Copland & the Cradle Will Rock  

Presented by Grand Valley State University Chamber Music Ensemble & Opera Theater Program 

This program will include selections of works from the 1930s performed by Grand Valley State University chamber music ensemble El Quinteto Pingüino and arrangements of works by Aaron Copland featuring Marlen Vavrikova on the oboe and Robert Byrens on the piano. Grand Valley State University Opera Theater students, under the direction of Dale Schriemer, will perform selections from Marc Blitzstein’s 1937 musical, “The Cradle Will Rock.” The original production, produced by John Houseman, was directed by Orson Wells and was part of the Federal Theater Project. Marlen Vavrika is an Associate Professor of Music and Robert Byrens is an Affiliate Professor of Music, both at Grand Valley State University. Dale Schriemer is an Associate Professor of Voice and the Artistic Director of the Opera Theater program at Grand Valley State University.

 

Thursday, March 29, 7:00 pm

Quilt Lecture

Making Do…Surviving the Great Depression

Presented by Kathy Kansier

Learn what events caused the Great Depression and what life was like during that time. Ms. Kansier will share photos, aprons, doilies, fabrics, and quilts from the time when everyone learned how to “make do.” Bring your own quilts from the 1930s and learn more about them from this award-winning quilter, educator, designers and AQS certified quilt appraiser.

 

Thursday, April 5, 6:00 pm

An Evening of Student and Worker Writers

Reception & Reading 

Presented by John P. Beck, Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives Project at Michigan State University

Enjoy readings by both Grand Valley State University students and Michigan worker writers that touch on the experience of working. The student writers are from the classes of Grand Valley State University professors Patricia Clark and Sean Prentiss. The worker writers are current or retired employees from General Motors, the Postal Service, and other workplaces. Refreshments will be provided.

 

Thursday, April 12, 12:15 pm

Brown Bag Film

The Wizard of Oz

(101 mins.) Sit back and enjoy this familiar 1939 MGM classic. Enjoy the tale of adventure a Kansas twister brings to a young girl and her companions on the yellow brick road to the magical land of Oz. Visit the MMA’s own Tornado Over Kansas during your visit. Free admission, cookies, and coffee. Docent-led tours of 1934: A New Deal for Artists will be held following the film. Brown Bag Films and Thursday tours are underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, April 12, 7:00 pm

The 1930s and The New Deal: A Panel Discussion

Panelists will discuss historical and sociological topics surrounding the 1930s and the New Deal.

Guest Panelists

Gleaves Whitney, Director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University; John Beck, Michigan State University Associate Professor and Director of Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives Project at Michigan State University; 

E.J. Hamacher, film historian; and Matthew Lawrence Daley, Associate Professor of History at Grand Valley State University. Henry Matthews, Director of Galleries and Collections at Grand Valley State University, will moderate the discussion.

 

April 14, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Super Saturday Repurposed

1934: A New Deal for Artists celebrates Depression era artists and this Super Saturday celebrates the resourcefulness of that decade.  

10:00 am & 1:00 pm

Film: Annie 

(127 mins.) We promise no “hard knocks” during this fun filled film that follows the Depression era adventures of Little Orphan Annie.  

11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Guided Exhibition Tours

Enjoy a tour of 1934: A New Deal for Artists with an MMA docent.

11:00 am – 2:00 pm 

Make & Take Recycled Toy

Use your creativity and ingenuity to construct your own toy from everyday recycled objects. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have turning something(s) old into something new!

 

Thursday, April 19, 7:00 pm

Hard Times, Part I

Come Again No More—The Depression in Muskegon 

Presented by John McGarry, Executive Director, Lakeshore Museum Center

John McGarry will examine the history of the depression and it’s dramatic effects on Muskegon County. Learn how the Depression affected local residents and businesses and the unique methods used by this community to survive the hardest of times, and especially how the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs in this area created a lasting cultural legacy. McGarry has served over 30 years in the museum profession, and has worked for the National Park Service, the U.S. Marine Corps Historical program, and spent three years as a treasure hunter. Amongst his many projects in Muskegon, he created the Scolnik House—the first historic house museum in the U.S. that tells the story of the Great Depression.

 

Thursday, April 26, 12:15 pm

Brown Bag Film

The American Hobo

87 (mins.) This documentary looks at the adventurous souls who wound their way across America while riding the rails. Author James A. Michener and country music legend Merle Haggard are among the many former hobos interviewed. Free admission, cookies, and coffee. Docent-led tours of 1934: A New Deal for Artists will be held following the film. Brown Bag Films and Thursday tours are underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

 

Thursday, April 26, 7:00 pm

Hard Times, Part II

Strength in Numbers; Great Art in Troubled Times 

Presented by E. Jane Connell, Sr. Curator, Muskegon Museum of Art

Jane Connell will discuss the remarkable growth of the collections of the Muskegon Museum of Art that occurred during the decade of the 1930s in spite of, or perhaps at times because of, the great challenges of the Great Depression, and will discuss how Museum leaders coped with those times. The talk will also relate the relevance of the MMA’s collections to the works created for the WPA Art Project presented in 1934: A New Deal for Artists and to the American Scene.

 

 

EDUCATOR GUIDE pdf


Images, top to bottom:

Julia Eckel,Radio Broadcast, 1933-1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Paul Kelpe,Machinery (Abstract #2), 1933-1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Robert Brackman,Somewhere in America, 1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Ross Dickinson, Valley Farms, 1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Earle Richardson,Employment of Negroes in Agriculture, 1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Millard Sheets, Tenement Flats, 1933-1934, oil on canvas; Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

 

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