Thursday, July 27, 2017

WPA artists of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area, part 3: Louisiana Small, Nelson Rosenberg, and William Calfee

Above: Louisiana Small lived on 25th Street, NW, Washington, DC, while she worked as a teacher in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. I wasn't able to find any information on Small's life, but see the caption for the next image, discussing art instruction and exhibition in Washington, DC, during this time period. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A WPA poster promoting free art instruction for children, by the "Art Teaching Division" of the WPA's Federal Art Project. WPA art instructors, like Louisiana Small, not only taught art classes to children and adults, but probably also participated in the exhibition of that art. For example, in 1937 the following was reported in the nation's Capital: "So seriously is juvenile art taken by the Federal Arts Project that the Children's Gallery, a museum for children, soon will be opened in the District WPA Professional Building, 816 Independence Avenue, southwest." It was also reported that "More than 2,000 children per week, both white and colored, are studying art under WPA teachers in settlement houses, community houses and other centers in Washington" ("WPA to Open Children's Art Museum Here," Washington Post, October 25, 1937). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Nelson Rosenberg lived on O Street, NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. A few years ago, during renovations of Theodore Roosevelt High School (4301 13th Street Northwest, Washington, DC), two large murals were discovered under layers of paint, and attributed to Rosenberg and the New Deal, 1934 (see "Rough Ride," Washington City Paper, January 31, 2014, and "High School Rehab Uncovers 1934 Frescoes," NBC News, August 9, 2014). Few details were given as to how the information was obtained, but Rosenberg was indeed listed in the 1934 final report of the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (p. 47) -  living on 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Engines and Landscape," a watercolor painting by Nelson Rosenberg, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. There doesn't seem to be much information about Rosenberg's life, but the Smithsonian American Art Museum reports that he was born in Baltimore, 1908 and died in Washington, DC, 1988. I also came across an old newspaper article, "Nelson Rosenberg's Water Colors and Oils On View at Studio Gallery [at George Washington University] Until February 24" (Washington Post, February 11, 1940, p. E9). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: William Calfee lived on U Street, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1936-1939. In addition to his time in the WPA, Calfee won several commissions with the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts, painting murals in a courthouse and many post offices (see, e.g., "Artist: William H. Calfee," Living New Deal). After his New Deal days were over, Calfee founded the art department at American University (Washington, DC) in 1945, served as its chair until 1954, and retired in 1977 ("William Calfee Dies," Washington Post, December 7, 1995). About a year before he died, Calfee recalled one of his Treasury commissions: "I won one of those Section of Fine Arts murals which was 20 feet long - this must have been in about '36... I had to find a place to do it. And I finally found a space over a garage in the rear of 1420 U [Street]... And I paid $30 a month for this, and I lived in it" ("Oral history interview with Adele S. Brown and William H. Calfee, 1995 January 11," Smithsonian Archives of American Art). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

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