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The crash of the stock market in 1929 initiated a chain of events that crippled the American art scene. As money from private patrons and museums evaporated, artists joined the nation’s staggering number of unemployed workers. The toils and triumphs of a wide range of individual artists and art organizations—documented in letters, photographs, journals, business records and oral-history interviews at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art—reveal how American artists survived against the odds. The exhibition will be on display from Aug. 10 to Nov. 8 in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Smithsonian’s Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
Beginning in 1933, government-sponsored art programs provided work relief for artists, employing them as muralists, painters, sculptors, art educators and researchers. “Hard Times” focuses on the evolution of such New Deal programs as the Civil Works Administration’s Public Works of Art Program, the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project and the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, as well as the rise of artists unions and spirited art organizations during the Depression.
Between 1963 and 1965, the Archives of American Art interviewed more than 400 artists and art administrators who worked on New Deal projects. Visitors to the exhibition can hear audio excerpts from 10 of these unique recordings.
The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art enlivens the extraordinary human stories behind America’s most significant art and artists. It is the world’s preeminent resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America. Constantly growing in range and depth, and ever increasing in accessibility to its many audiences, it is a vibrant, unparalleled and essential resource for the appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of art in America. For more information visit the Archives Web site at www.aaa.si.edu.
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