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The American Scene: New Deal Art 1935-1943

October 3 - December 19, 2010

"We were among the forefront of the people of that era who were pulling out of the tragedy of the Depression something beautiful and something lasting."

The Bedford Gallery brings history to life with its new exhibition, The American Scene: New Deal Art 1935-1943, opening on October 3, with a reception on October 5 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. that will be free and open to the public. This compelling and timeless exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Federal Art Project (FAP) in California, programs that put thousands of artists to work at the height of the Great Depression. The Bedford Gallery is the only art space in Northern California to plan a full exhibit around this historic milestone.

Created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions to carry out public works projects. Artists working for the FAP created more than 200,000 separate pieces, including posters, murals, and paintings. The American Scene: New Deal Art 1935-1943 was organized by Bedford Gallery curator Carrie Lederer in collaboration with Harvey Smith, project advisor to California's Living New Deal Project and board president of the National New Deal Preservation Association. Lederer and Smith have brought together works by more than 75 artists who worked for the FAP. Visitors to the gallery will have the opportunity to see works by men and women from a diversity of backgrounds-Japanese-American, African-American, Russian-American, and Mexican-American. Each of these artists played a role in enriching a population that had suffered tremendous economic setbacks.

Curator Carrie Lederer states, "During Roosevelt's presidency, America was grappling with an economic situation that feels all too familiar today. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt's administration understood how essential art was to sustaining America's spirit. The FAP not only employed struggling artists but also provided them with a sense of pride in serving their country."

The Bedford Gallery culled artworks from several WPA repositories including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Much of the works in these repositories have been in storage-unseen by our community-since the 1940s.

Private collectors including Alan Selsor, George Krevsky and M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc. are donating paintings, drawings, posters, and photographs. Oakland resident Adria Peterson will be loaning prints, paintings, and sculptures from the estate of her grandfather, New York WPA artist Domenico Morellito, and the estate of Milton Hebald in Santa Fe will contribute bronze and wood sculptures for The American Scene. Beth Danysh is loaning an early Benny Bufano sculpture and William Maynez is lending a Diego Rivera portrait.

The exhibit will also feature a selection of photographs by influential American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895 -1965). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.


(above: Millard Everingham, Mining Camp House, 1940, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco)


(above: Pele Delappe, Popular Song, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco)


(above: Angelo Sottosanti, Chinese Busman in Chinatown, ca. 1940, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)


(above: Pele Delappe, The Transients, 1938, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco)

Related events

California Symphony: A Tribute to WPA at 75
Sunday, October 3, 2010, 4:00 p.m.
In collaboration with Bedford Gallery's The American Scene, California Symphony presents A Tribute to WPA at 75.
The WPA's Composers' Forum-Laboratory had a profound influence on the development of an American voice in classical music. Despite its brief existence, from 1935 to 1940, this Depression-era program, funded by Roosevelt's New Deal, produced an astounding 5500 new works by some 1500 composers. Among those who thrived under its patronage were the great composer Aaron Copland and Bay Area native treasure Ernst Bacon, as well as Bacon's close friend, Ansel Adams -- a concert pianist, who it is said, was as adept at the keyboard as he was behind a lens.
Opening Reception for The American Scene
Tuesday, October 5, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres provided by the Bedford Gallery Guild. Enjoy music by Five Cent Coffee, performing standards from the Great American Songbook. Sponsored by Diablo Regional Arts Association. Visit www.bedfordgallery.org for updated information on related events. Free admission.

About the Gallery

Bedford Gallery is a program of the City of Walnut Creek. It's location is 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 .Please see the Museum's website for hours and fees.


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