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The Federal Art Project: Supporting Good Artists in Bad Times

January 27 - August 24, 2008

 

Among the many projects to come out of the Great Depression and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal government programs to combat massive unemployment are those that dealt with the arts, architecture and crafts of American workers. Michigan State University Museum presents an exhibition of pieces from public work projects in Michigan and on the Michigan State College campus during the 1930s and early '40s.

"The Federal Art Project: Supporting Good Artists in Bad Times" opens January 27, 2008 in the Heritage Gallery and runs through August 24, 2008.  In addition, a historic mural makes its debut after a complete restoration.  An opening reception is set for Sunday, February 3, at 2 p.m.

About the exhibit:  More than 8,500,000 Americans were hired through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) mostly to build roads, public buildings and parks. Unemployed artists and writers were also given work through branches of the WPA known as the Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers' Project. Their lasting legacy can still be seen and enjoyed throughout the state and the nation.

Michigan State University and Michigan State University Museum collections are rich with examples of a WPA legacy of art and craft. Included in the exhibit are miniature barn models that were used to educate farmers across the state on more efficient construction techniques. Also in the exhibit: a series of dolls dressed in detailed period costumes, and a set of miniature pieces of historic furniture styles for MSC Home Economics students studying the history of clothing or furniture design. A large relief map of the campus was created in 1941 by WPA craftpersons. Its accurately detailed miniature buildings and natural features can be compared with the growth of the present campus.

Museum collections also house examples of Michigan Native American WPA projects that produced rustic furniture for hunting lodges as well as skis, snowshoes, fishing creels and decorative arts utilizing traditional native materials and craft techniques. Sculptures created by Leonard Jungwirth for the Michigan School for the Blind and a bust of Mark Twain by Samuel Cashwan reflect the Federal Arts Project. Jungwirth later became a sculpture instructor at MSU and created the well-known Sparty statue. The exhibition will also present some of the many local murals and sculptures through photographs of these works.

The Michigan State University Museum is commemorating American's New Deal Heritage and the nationwide 75th anniversary of the New Deal in 2008 with "The Federal Art Project: Supporting Good Artists in Bad Times." The Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University is also taking part in this nationwide New Deal anniversary, with an exhibit set for September 2 - October 12, 2008:  "Works On Paper Gallery: WPA Edgar Yaeger." For more information on the WPA, click here.

Also of interest:  The Art Museum at MSU has also developed a New Deal Art and Architecture Campus Walking Tour, featuring WPA-era buildings, free-standing sculpture, low-reliefs and murals throughout the Michigan State University campus.  Learn more about the museum's virtual walking tour of New Deal art and architecture in the Lansing, East Lansing area here.

 

Historic mural restored for Michigan State University Museum exhibit

The exhibit also features a newly restored WPA-era historic mural from the museum's collections. "Natural Resources of Northern Michigan," a 1936 painting by Carl H. Frezell (1901-1970) depicts underground and open pit mining, logging, agriculture, and tourism -- industries vital to the economy of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) in the 1930s. His themes and large-scale, robust workers accentuate an optimistic view that the natural resources and labor force of the UP were keys to the nation's growth as it recovered from the Great Depression.

The mural was restored pro bono by Elizabeth Kendall (B.A. '84), owner of Parma Conservation in Chicago, Ill., one of the country's leading conservators of murals and paintings. The 70 x 181 inches oil-on-canvas mural has been part of the MSU Museum's historical collections since 1957 and was previously located in the MSU Museum auditorium.  The painstaking conservation involved surface cleaning, stabilization of materials, protection from the ravages of long-term exposure to airborne pollutants and ultraviolet light, as well as repairing some dents and divots -- the unfortunate result of an errant tennis ball some years ago.

 

About Michigan State University Museum

The museum, initiated in 1857, is one of the oldest museums in the Midwest and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 2001, the MSU Museum became the first museum in the state to receive Smithsonian affiliate status from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the world's largest museum and research complex, thereby giving the MSU Museum broader access to Smithsonian cultural and scientific resources. The museum features three floors of special collections and changing exhibits and is located on West Circle Drive next to Beaumont Tower on the MSU campus in East Lansing, MI. The MSU campus also features the Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University. Please see the museum's web site for admission prices and hours.

 

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Google Book Searches conducted in 2008 and 2013 by Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) located the following brochures, catalogues and gallery guides published on paper in connection with the Museum and with a topic of American representational art. The list may not include all relevant publications. Titles are listed by date of publication, with most recent listed first. Information on publications may be in error or incomplete. Titles may be followed by links to related essays published by Resource Library. See Definitions for more information on finding brochures, catalogues and gallery guides using TFAO's website.

Craft Works! Michigan: A Report on Traditional Crafts and Economic Development in Michigan, By Marsha MacDowell, Julie Avery, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Museum, Michigan State University. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 2006. 73 pages

Gatherings: Great Lakes Native Basket and Box Makers, By Marsha MacDowell, Cameron Wood, Museum, Michigan State University Museum, Sara Greensfelder, Nokomis Learning Center, Nokomis Learning Center, Theresa Hoffman, Michigan State University. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 2003. ISBN 0944311148, 9780944311141. 50 pages

Four Works by Fairfield Porter, By Kresge Art Museum, April Kingsley, Fairfield Porter. Published by Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, 2002. 4 pages

African American Quiltmaking in Michigan, by Marsha L. MacDowell, ed. Published: Michigan State University Press with the Michigan State University Museum, 1997. Pages: 162. ISBN: 0870134108. " Essays by Marsha MacDowell, Darlene Clark Hine, Cuesta Benberry, and Bill Harris examine the history and meaning of quilting in individual artist's lives and within the contexts of community and family. Also included are excerpts of interviews with quilters Sarah Carolyn Reese, Ione Todd, Deonna Green, and Rosa Parks." Information courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

The Prints of John S. DeMartelly, 1903-1979, By Bill North, John S. DeMartelly, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kresge Art Museum. Published by Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, 1997. ISBN 1879147149, 9781879147140. 96 pages. "Exhibition catalogue"--T.p. verso.

To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions, by Marsha L. MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst, eds. Published: Santa Fe, New Mexico: Museum of New Mexico Press in association with Michigan State University Museum, 1997. Pages: 230. ISBN: 0890133174. "Issued in conjunction with a national exhibition of the same name, this publication explores the history and meaning of quiltmaking within Native communities across North America and Hawaii. The volume features essays on contemporary and historical quilting traditions, quilt collections, quilt documentation projects, and quilters, exploring such topics as a basketball tournament star quilt ceremony, quilts and Hopi baby naming ceremonies, and quilting and fundraising activities on a Mohawk reservation." Information courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

Anishnaabek: Artists of Little Traverse Bay, by Marsha MacDowell, ed. Published: East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Museum and The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, 1996. Pages: 73 ISBN: 0944311091. " This publication features the work of thirty-one artists who are Ottawa/Odawa and/or Chippewa/Ojibwa, descendants of nineteenth-century bands who lived in what are now Emmet, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Delta counties in Michigan. The book includes photos of their work, photographic portraits of the artists by Minnie Wabanimkee, and essays and artist biographical sketches by Frank Ettawageshik, Marsha MacDowell, Minnie Wabanimkee, James M. McClurken, and Kathy VanDeCar with Robert Shagonaby. " Information courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

Sisters of the Great Lakes: Art of American Indian Women, By Marsha MacDowell, Janice Reed, Douglas Elbinger, Museum, Nokomis Learning Center, Michigan State University. Published by Michigan State University Museum ; Nokomis Learning Center, 1995. ISBN 0944311083, 9780944311080. 53 pages. "The exhibit ... was developed by the Michigan State University Museum and the Nokomis Learning Center in partnership with the artists involved."--P. [54].

Your Wellwisher, J. B. Walker: A Midwestern Paper Cut-Out Artist, by C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell. Published: East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Museum, 1995. Pages: 57. " Examines the life and work of Midwestern paper cut-out artist John Brown Walker." Information courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

Abraham Rattner Rediscovered., By Abraham Rattner, Susan J Bandes, Kresge Art Museum, Kresge Art Museum. Published by Michigan State University, Kresge Art Museum, 1992. 5 pages

Pat-riots to Patriots: American Irish in Caricature and Comic Art, By John Appel, Selma Appel. Contributor Draper Hill. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 1990. ISBN 0944311032, 9780944311035. 32 pages

Mary Schafer and Her Quilts, By Gwen Marston, Joe Cunningham. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 1990. ISBN 0944311040, 9780944311042. 58 pages

Quilts from the Albert and Merry Silber Collection, By Lynne Swanson, Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museum, Museum, Michigan State University. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 1988. 35 pages

Q is for Quilt: An Abc Quilt Pattern Book, By Gwen Marston, Kathryn Darnell, Michigan State University Museum, Museum, Michigan State University. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 1987, 32 pages

Michigan Quilts: 150 Years of a Textile Tradition, By Marsha MacDowell, Ruth D. Fitzgerald, Michigan State University Museum. Published by Michigan State University Museum, 1987. ISBN 0944311008, 9780944311004. 177 pages

The Michigan Experience: A Traveling Exhibition of Paintings of Michigan Themes by Michigan Artists in Celebration of the State's Sesquicentennial, By Sadayoshi Omoto, Eldon N Van Liere, Kresge Art Museum. Published by Kresge Art Museum, Dept. of Art, Michigan State University, 1986

Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Peter Takal: Exhibition, Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, January 5-26, 1986, By Peter Takal, Joseph Ishikawa, Kresge Art Museum. Published by Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, 1986. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Nov 14, 2007. 90 pages. "Produced in conjunction with an exhibition of Takal's prints at the Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, January 5-26, 1986"--T.p. verso. "snippit view."

Michigan 4-H Friendship Quilt: An Exhibition, By Cooperative Extension Service, Museum, Michigan State University. Published by Cooperative Extension Service & the Museum, Michigan State University, 1983

Downriver and Thumb Area Michigan Waterfowling: The Folk Arts of Nate Quillen and Otto Misch, By C. Kurt Dewhurst, Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museum. Published by Museum, Michigan State University, 1981. 14 pages

Cast in Clay: The Folk Pottery of Grand Ledge, Michigan, By C. Kurt Dewhurst, Marsha MacDowell. Published by Museum, Michigan State University, 1980. 73 pages

Rainbows in the Sky: Folk Art of Michigan in the 20th Century, by C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell. Published: East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Museum, 1978. Pages: 128. "This publication accompanied the 1978 exhibition of the same name. Includes biographies of artists, photographs of their work, and an essay on attitudes toward folk art." Information courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

Book information courtesy of Google Books.

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