Friday, April 28, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (3/5): "Town Creek, Clinton, Missouri"

Above: "Town Creek, Clinton, Missouri," an oil painting by Harry Louis Freund (1905-1999), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture has a biography of Freund. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (2/5): "Death of a Giant"

Above: "Death of a Giant," an oil painting by Stuyvesant Van Veen (1910-1988), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. From 1945 to 1979 Van Veen "taught painting and drawing at the City College of New York" ("Stuyvesant Van Veen, Muralist, Is Dead at 77," New York Times, June 3, 1988). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (1/5): "Reforestation"

Above: "Reforestation," a mural study painting by Hollis Holbrook (1909-1984), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1940. Holbrook graduated from the Massachusetts School of Art in 1934, the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1936, and then went on to become a faculty member at the University of Florida's Art Department ("A Guide to the Hollis H. Holbrook Papers," University of Florida Smathers Libraries). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the left-hand side of the mural study.

Above: A closer look at the right-hand side of the mural study. Reforestation was big during the New Deal, with the CCC planting several billion trees; and other work programs, like the WPA, planting tens of millions of other trees.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Broken Pipes and Mass Robberies: The San Francisco Bay Area Needs a New Deal

Above: "San Francisco from Russian Hill," an oil painting by Ray Strong (1905-2006), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The San Francisco Bay Area has many problems that another New Deal could solve or mitigate. For example, it's aging water infrastructure could be replaced by WPA-type workers and/or with PWA-type funding, and most of its homeless encampments could be replaced with work camps where residents could receive shelter, health care, good meals, social services, public works job experience, and a modest paycheck. And many, no doubt, would eventually regain their footing and independence. During the New Deal, there were camps for unemployed women, transient camps for homeless and outcast workers, and CCC camps for young men who had been hopping trains and wandering around the countryside looking for jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Area is also having problems with its teenagers and young adults, for example, dirt bike gangs that cause traffic and harassment problems; and, this past Saturday, up to 60 youths committed a mass robbery on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART).

From 1935 to 1939, Anne Treadwell was the director of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California. The NYA was a New Deal program that hired millions of struggling young men and women across the country, to perform various public works jobs. In the 1990s, during an oral history interview, Treadwell spoke about the benefits of the NYA and CCC: "I have thought over and over that we should have a program of that sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing. There was nothing like that in those days. I mean, youngsters didn't feel they were totally abandoned or that nobody gave a thought to what they did with their lives. It seems to me that was an extremely valuable thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."

Over the past many decades, we've tried trickle-down economics, mass incarceration, cutting the social safety net, deifying the rich, and also the demented philosophies of Ayn Rand - a philosophy that can be summed up as: "Don't give a sh%t about anyone but yourself." Instead of doubling-down on these failed policies, which congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration are attempting to do, isn't about time we tried something else... like another New Deal?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Preschoolers in New York City have been drinking lead for the rich

Above: A New Deal-financed waterworks project in New York City, ca. 1933-1939. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

As Donald Trump's Ayn Rand-administration is trying to figure out the best way to cut infrastructure spending, kick poor people off Medicaid, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and increase the number of military adventures across the globe, preschool children in New York City (and across the rest of the United States too) have been drinking lead, a neurotoxin that causes permanent brain damage (see, e.g., "City pre-K programs also have high lead count in drinking water," New York Post, April 19, 2017).

Meanwhile, super-wealthy Americans are laughing at us, enjoying record wealth, and drooling over the tax breaks they're sure to receive from their Republicans in Congress. Worse, they have millions of Americans dancing around like marionettes, crying out "We can't afford it!!" whenever a solution to a domestic problem is mentioned. And many of the marionettes also cry out in adoration: "Job creators! We love you!!" At their swanky parties, the millionaires & billionaires must be giggling: "Good Lord, we send their jobs overseas, use our cash to turn their government against them, attack every social program that helps them... and still they worship us!"

Things were different during the New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow policymakers created many work and construction programs that modernized America infrastructure. For example, WPA workers in New York state installed 1,200 miles of new water lines, 1,600 miles of sewers, and built or improved 266 utility plants (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 136). Why? Well, among other reasons, they believed that clean drinking water, and the efficient removal of wastewater, was important to the nation's health, especially for children.

We could do the same thing today with the nation's lead problem--replacing water mains, connection lines, and old plumbing--if we had the will, and if we had a good understanding of American history. 

Unfortunately, and to the contrary, America has embraced an Ayn Rand-fueled system of economics (trickle-down economics) that has "helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world" (Bruce Levine, "How Ayn Rand Helped Turn the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation," Alternet, December 10, 2014). This embrace of selfishness has been disastrous for America's children, as evidenced by rampant child poverty, high infant mortality rates, and the routine delivery of contaminated drinking water to their developing bodies.

Hopefully, someday in the not-too-distant future, Americans will turn away from the malevolent rule of millionaires and billionaires, and once again work towards a government that is truly for the people. The health of the nation's children depends on it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (5/5): Landscape with lighthouse

Above: This oil painting of a landscape with a lighthouse was made by Tode Brower, while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. There doesn't seem to be much information about Brower on the Internet; however, a few sources list his lifespan as 1898-1974. I found a newspaper obituary for January 18, 1974 that reads: "A former resident of Plainfield, [New Jersey], Lorenzo D. (Tode) Brower, Jr., 76, died Wednesday... in the Veterans Hospital in Albany... He was an artist and made his home in Bearsville... He served in the Coastguard in World War I... He and Mrs. [Jo Cantine] Brower have exhibited their work in Woodstock galleries ("L. Brower Jr.," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), January 18, 1974). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the lighthouse section of the painting.

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (4/5): "The Clouds"

Above: "The Clouds," a drypoint on paper by Lawrence Kupferman (1909-1982), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco, "Kupferman worked as an artist for the WPA in the 1930s, developing a strictly realist style that depicted Victorian houses and other detailed architectural images. Around 1943 Kupferman began to integrate more expressionistic forms into his works. He soon moved completely away from recognizable subject matter and definitively became an abstract painter." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (3/5): "Mail to Cape Lookout"

Above: "Mail to Cape Lookout," a mural study by Simka Simkhovitch (1893-1949). According to information provided by the Living New Deal, Simkhovitch created this while he was under commission with the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1939-1940. The finished mural can be seen at the Beaufort, North Carolina Post Office. According to Simkhovitch's Wikipedia biography, he pursued an art career against his father's wishes. No doubt this was the timeless tale & struggle over whether to pursue one's dreams or a more "practical" career. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: The Cape Lookout Lighthouse, located on North Carolina's Outer Banks, 2007. Photo courtesy of BrianDBell and Wikipedia, used here under the CCA-SA 3.0 license.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (2/5): "Montauk Lighthouse"

Above: "Montauk Lighthouse," a lithograph by Mabel Dwight (1876-1955). According to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dwight made this while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. The Smithsonian American Art Museum informs us that "Although Mabel Dwight studied painting in her youth at the Hopkins School of Art in San Francisco, she was fifty years old before she began to practice art seriously." A biography of Dwight can be found on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Above: A closer look at the top of the lighthouse.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (1/5): "Alki Point Lighthouse"

Above: "Alki Point Lighthouse," a watercolor painting by Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968), created while she was in one of the New Deal art programs (probably the WPA's Federal Art Project), ca. 1935-1938. An interesting biography of Helder can be found on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

New Deal Art: Dismissed, rejected, and no place to go

Above: "Vagabonds," an etching by Mildred Bryant Brooks (1901-1995), created while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Weary," a painting by Edward Millman (1907-1964), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "The Jungle," a wood engraving on paper by Charles Surendorf (1906-1979), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Dismissal," an oil painting by Howard Taft Lorenz (1906-1956), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1940. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Eviction," an aquatint by Dorothy Rutka (1907-1985). According to the Ohio Library and Information Network, it was made while Rutka was in the WPA. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "The Wanderer," a drypoint on paper by Louis Lozowick (1892-1973), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1940. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Flop House," another oil painting by Edward Millman (1907-1964), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Above: A 1939 photograph of a migrant family, by Mary Post Wolcott (1910-1990), taken while she was in the New Deal's Farm Security Administration. The mother told Wolcott, "We ain't never lived like hogs before, but we sure does now." Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 (and a little bit before that too), many millions of lives were decimated - lost jobs, lost savings, lost homes, lost farms, lost families, and lost hope. The New Deal, through various work-relief programs, construction grants, transient camps, public housing initiatives, low-interest credit opportunities, bankruptcy protections, and more, relieved a lot of the suffering. It didn't solve poverty altogether--and neither did World War II, or America's post-war economic boom, or anything else we've done since then--but lasting programs of the New Deal (for example, Social Security, FDIC, unemployment insurance, and food stamps) have greatly mitigated the pain & suffering associated with low or no income. 

If American voters ever have the guts to stop relying on millionaires & billionaires to manage their lives--and decide to implement another, even stronger New Deal--we'll make even more substantial improvements to everyone's quality of life.

We need New Deal II.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Deal Art: "Summer Pastures"

Above: "Summer Pastures," an oil painting by Dorothy Varian (1895-1985), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Varian had a prolific art career. In 1968 it was reported that she had "received high praise as a colorist, and working with color is her first interest. Critics have lauded her work in oil as subtle and often shimmery - oriental in its serenity and based on simplicity" ("Splash of Color at Polari," The Kingston Daily Freemen, July 27, 1968, p. 26). The "serenity" and "simplicity" of "Summer Pastures" offers a nice respite from today's perpetual bad news. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Deal Mattresses, Sheets, Pillow Cases, Quilts, and Comforters

Above: At this WPA mattress-making project in Savannah Georgia, April 1936, workers are removing small sticks and debris from Spanish moss collected from oak trees. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: After being steamed for two hours, the moss is hung out to dry. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A mattress is nearing completion after being filled with the Spanish moss. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: After a long day of making mattresses for low-income families, the WPA workers enjoy their dinner. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: WPA workers stuffing mattresses in Topeka, Kansas, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Above: These WPA workers in Waco, Texas are tufting newly-made mattresses, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

During the New Deal, relief workers made millions of bedding items for low-income Americans struggling through the Great Depression. For example, from 1934 to 1935, workers in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) produced 1.3 million mattresses, 3.1 million quilts & comforters, 4 million sheets, and 5.3 million pillow cases (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the FERA, April 1, 1934 - July 1, 1935, 1935, p. 65).

Sometimes, New Deal bedding items helped after natural disasters. For example, on April 28, 1942, it was reported that WPA workers responded to a devastating tornado in Pryor, Oklahoma with "500 mattresses, 1,000 blankets, 2,000 sheets, 500 pillows and towels and more than $1,000 in food [about $15,000 in today's dollars]" ("State Disaster Relief Speeded," Miami DailyNews-Record).

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Deal Art: On the rails

Above: "Pacific Cable Car - San Francisco," a lithograph by Marguerite Redman Dorgeloh (1890-1944), created while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "The Railroads Came To Town," a watercolor by Saul Berman (1899-1975), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Bridges in Winter," an oil painting by Nicola Victor Ziroli (1908-1970), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Subway," an oil painting by Lily Furedi (1896-1969), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A model of "The Montezuma," the first mountain locomotive of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The model was created by WPA workers for the Colorado State Museum, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "6th Avenue Subway," an aquatint on paper by Harry Francis Mack (1907-?), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Uptown," a color lithograph by Leonard Pytlak (1910-1998), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Arrival of First Train in Herrington," a mural study for the Herrington Post Office [Kansas], created by Harry Louis Freund (1905-1999), created while he was working for the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts (Federal Works Agency, Public Buildings Administration), ca. 1939-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Engine House and Bunkers," an oil painting by Austin Mecklem (1894-1951), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Along the River," an oil painting by Lamar Dodd (1909-1996), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Back o' the Yards #3," a gouache painting by Mitchell Siporin (1910-1976), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Engines and Landscape," a watercolor by Nelson Rosenberg (1908-1988), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Modern Music," a linoleum cut on paper by Albert Potter (1903-1937), created while he was in one of the New Deal art programs, ca. 1933-1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Nocturne," a tempera on paperboard by Jack Lubin (1907-1986), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

 Above: Part of the mural, "The History of Transportation," at the Towson Post Office [Maryland], created by Nicolai Cikovsky, while he was on commission with the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts, 1939. Photo by Brent McKee, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Railroading," a mural study by Arthur Herschel Lidov (1917-1990), created while he was in one of the New Deal art programs; probably the Public Building Administration's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1941. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

New Deal Funds Moved America

By Streetcar...

Above: Citizens of Indianapolis, Indiana wait for their streetcar, ca. 1938. Around this time, the following was reported: "Co-operation of it's 1,000 employees, the citizens of Indianapolis and the Public Works Administration has enabled the Indianapolis Railways, Inc., to give the city one of the best streetcar transportation systems in the country" ("President of Local Streetcar System Attributes Success to Co-Operation," The Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1938). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

By Bus...

Above: The description for this photograph, taken ca. 1938, reads, "A battery of buses ready for service - PWA funds provided this public utility service." This was part of a massive public transportation initiative in Indianapolis ("World Watches Improvement of Local Company: Ten-year rehabilitation project for system is finished 4 years ahead of schedule with expenditure $1,000,000 below estimate... 323 modern cars, trolleys, and buses purchased - public patronage increases," The Indianapolis Star, July 17, 1938). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

By subway...

Above: The description for this photograph, taken ca. 1936-1939, reads, "Eight Avenue express leaves the Hoyt Street station in New York's modern subway - constructed by PWA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

By Sea...

Above: "Huge ocean liners dwarf enormous docks at New York City - [docks] constructed by PWA." Photo taken ca. 1935-1939, provided courtesy of the National Archives.

By Air...

Above: An airplane at Baltimore Municipal Airport, 1941. The airport was one of 900 built or improved by the WPA. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

By Car...

Above: "The new Kanawha River Boulevard [West Virginia], constructed with PWA funds." Between 1933 and 1943, well over a million miles of roads were built or improved by various New Deal work programs. Photo taken in July 1940, provided courtesy of the National Archives.

By Train...

Above: The New Deal provided funds for new trains, like "The Comet," and also for new and improved tracks. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

In his 2015 book, Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America, Donald Trump wrote: "If we do what we have to do correctly, we can create the biggest economic boom in this country since the New Deal when our vast infrastructure was first put into place..." Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is turning its back on that statement. For example, they are proposing to cut funding for rural infrastructure, cut funding for Amtrak, and sell off public infrastructure to greedy and careless private investors. This is the exact opposite of the New Deal's approach to infrastructure - an approach which provided federal funds, and federally-paid labor, to build and modernize hundreds of thousands of infrastructure systems all across the nation: roads, sidewalks, tunnels, dams, bridges, airports, piers & docks, trains, buses, water mains, reservoirs, sewer lines, utility plants, parks, and more. 

New Deal policymakers understood that infrastructure is a common good and should be controlled by "we the people," not big financial institutions. Donald Trump seems to have understood this too, just as he also understood how single-payer health care is superior to the mess of a health care system that we have now. For some reason, he has abandoned these positions and caved to right-wing extremists who fervently believe that billionaires, i.e., the holy "JOB CREATORS" (who love shipping our jobs overseas) should be in control of every aspect of our lives. This doesn't bode well for our infrastructure.