FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A New New Deal for the Arts

In response to President Obama’s call for all Americans to contribute to our nation’s future, many suggestions gain inspiration from New Deal programs instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt to revive the nation from the financial devastation caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

As an artist, I suggest Obama and Congress include projects that employ creative ideas and energies of artists, as did two famous New Deal programs, the Public Works of Art Project, instituted in 1933, and it successor, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), formed in 1935, when more than 8.5 million jobless Americans worked on arts-related projects that paid the equivalent of today’s minimum hourly wage.

The 21st century version of New Deal arts programs could feature creative partnerships between artists and scientists, engineers, businesses, educators, skilled labor, city planners and community leaders throughout our nation’s cities and rural communities.

Besides reducing unemployment, the partnerships could add valuable creative thinking to projects that invest in infrastructure, revitalize education, and develop new and greener technologies.

Based on 1930s programs and more recent models, three examples of programs that could be instituted are:

Innovative Technologies Projects: Like Xerox PARC, founded in 1970 as a computer research center in today’s Silicon Valley by Xerox Corp., which became the birthplace of many innovations that were developed into basic tools and components of computer science technology, this program could team artists with scientists and engineers to design innovations that help reduce energy consumption, increase use of recycled materials, convert empty malls and industrial parks for new uses, restore environments destroyed by natural disasters, and conduct experiments to invent materials and technologies for functions not yet imagined.

Federal Writers Project: By updating documentary research projects, such as the gathering of oral histories and the encyclopedic American Guide Series that preserved much of the nation’s geographic, cultural and political heritage up through the years they were completed, writers, journalists and photographers could build on these great resources, retrieving memories and images from our present 50 states and territories that could be lost without an organized effort. This updated documentation could be stored in the Library of Congress or National Archives, digitized for retrieval by anyone online.

Community Art Projects: In addition to funding regional, state and local festivals and other events, this program could offer professionally directed classes and workshops in theater, dance, music, photography and visual arts, where people of all ages could gain access to training and appreciation of arts that are routinely omitted from public school curricula and community services whenever budgets have to be cut. Programs offered since 1971 under National Endowment for the Arts’ Expansion Arts and Community Cultural Programs have documented how increased understanding and respect for all arts, through greater accessibility, also increases the quality of life in a community, besides increasing local revenues as visitors partake of these activities.

The 1930s WPA programs financed projects other than those I have mentioned, including public art projects that continue to provide a source of wonder, such as San Francisco’s Coit Tower murals, which still draw tourists from all over the world. Moreover, WPA projects provided enough income to make it possible for many artists to continue careers, making them today’s canonized icons, such as Richard Wright, Orson Welles, Aaron Copland, Dorothea Lange and Jackson Pollack. Artists have collaborated with architects, educators and businesses for centuries. When such collaborations are successful, they are called a renaissance.

CARLA BLANK is the author of “Rediscovering America” (Three Rivers Press, 2003). “Kool,” Blank’s multimedia collaboration with Robert Wilson, will premiere at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City this April.

This essay originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

More articles by:

Carla Blank’s most recent book is “Storming the Old Boys’ Citadel: two Pioneer Women Architects of Nineteenth Century North America,” co-authored with Tania Martin. She collaborated with Robert Wilson on “KOOL, Dancing in My Mind,” which premiered at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum in 2009. In May 2015 she directed a production of Ishmael Reed’s play, “Mother Hubbard” in Xiangtan, China, and in September 2015 she directed Yuri Kageyama’s “News From Fukushima” at New York’s LaMama Café Theater.

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail