Art Museum Chronicles 'Worst of Times'

By WISE Web News

June 18, 2010 Updated May 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--It still haunts the American Dream, that time when unemployment hit 25%, and stayed there for ten years. When every city park bench was occupied at night and the busiest place in town was the daily bread line. The Great Depression was a national nightmare that makes our current recession look like a holiday.

“It’s a reminder of that kind of feeling that ‘we can do it’ proven in the worst of our economic hours and the darkest of times,” says Fort Wayne Museum of Art director Charles Shepard III. “Every picture is a reminder of what’s strong about this country.”

Great calamity produces great art and the Great Depression produced some of America’s best art, several dozen works of which make up the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s new exhibit, ‘1934: A New Deal for Artists’. Franklin Roosevelt came to power in 1932 determined to lift the country’s spirits and get its economy moving again. The government commissioned thousands of artists to paint America at work at play, suffering and thriving; an oil and canvas pep talk for a country steeped in gloom.

“He’s defending a way of life,” Shepard says, “he’s defending democracy and so he sees this art program as having to be woven into the greater program of building roads and schools and parks the likes of which had never been done in the history of the country.”

For eight years in the decade of the ‘30’s artists fanned out across America, to her factorys and towns, cotton fields and mines: celebrating the life of the common man as the wealthy look on from their palaces in the sky. It’s a visual biography of a country down but not out, facing the future with grit and determination, because to do anything else…is un-American. Eric Olson, out in ‘Your Country’.

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