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Creativity in Dark Times: Artists and Writers of the New Deal – NEW DATE
June 30, 2020 @ 6:45 pm - 8:30 pm EDT$25
President Franklin Roosevelt said, “One hundred years from now, my administration will be known for its art, not its relief.” His massive work relief program of the 1930s New Deal were mainly known for building dams, roads, and schools. But the New Deal also launched several creative agencies including the Federal Writers’ Project, which hired writers and would-be writers. They produced scores of travel guidebooks, histories, and thousands of life histories including the narratives of former slaves. Artists supported by the New Deal’s WPA Arts Project produced landscapes, murals, street scenes, portraits, sculptures, and abstracts.
This talk looks at some of the artists and writers for whom those programs gave a new purpose: recording American life. Some later ranked among the most creative minds of the 20th century as screenwriters, poets, bestselling novelists, and artists. They included recipients of the National Book Award, the National Medal of Arts, and the Nobel Prize for Literature. In looking at America, those artists could stir controversy. Some of their books have been banned and murals denounced by citizens’ committees even up to the present. By tracing how these artists and writers cut against the grain of public opinion and convention, we’ll examine art’s power in shifting American identities. Copies of my book Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America, now in paperback, will be available for sale and signing afterward.