America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond
Lyman Allyn Art Museum opens exciting spring exhibition
Lyman Allyn Art Museum announces a new exhibition, America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond, opening March 8 and on view through June 9, 2012. The exhibition has been organized by Guest Curator Barbara Zabel, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Connecticut College.
The lobby of the New London Post Office on Masonic Street boasts remarkable murals painted in the 1930s. Hailed by Philip Eliasoph as “the Sistine Chapel of Connecticut,” these murals by New England artist Thomas La Farge (1904-1942) feature scenes of a crew at work on a whaling ship. La Farge’s murals were created under the auspices of the art projects of the New Deal, President Roosevelt’s comprehensive relief program designed to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum is fortunate to have in its collection the artist’s preliminary studies for the murals; these are the local inspiration for the exhibition. The aim of America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond is to bring attention to our often overlooked local treasures in the context of New Deal murals in other states. The government funded hundreds of murals in federal buildings across the country, typically providing artists with a list of topics pertinent to local history. The artists were then free to choose their own content. Thomas La Farge was quick to identify whaling as an apt theme for murals in New London, a city long known as the “Whaling City.” Other artists in the exhibition chose topics such as the cotton industry in North Carolina, corn harvesting in Georgia, onion farming in upstate New York, processing steel in Ohio, and pioneering and mining in Idaho.
Although the artists included in America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond are from distant corners of America, they share a focus on working Americans. More notably, they espouse an uplifting message of pride in American ingenuity and a belief that the country’s economic woes could be overcome through hard work—this in the face of the stark realities of life in America, a country suffering from significant hardship and unemployment during the Great Depression.
These works also resonate with today’s economic climate; the American population is again faced with economic challenges unheard of since the Great Depression. The government’s establishment of the New Deal art projects of the 1930s provides a provocative model of how to get America back to work while also enriching our cultural heritage.
Barbara Zabel, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Connecticut College, has organized many exhibitions for the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Most recently, she served as guest curator of last year’s popular Face Off: Portraits by Contemporary Artists. Again this year, Barbara has drawn on her teaching and research interests to curate America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond. Barbara Zabel has published widely in journals and anthologies; last year her second book, “Calder’s Portraits, A New Language,” was published, and she curated an exhibition on the subject for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which was on view from March to August, 2011.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum’s mission is to respond and to appeal to the regional community. In that spirit, the museum has planned an exciting schedule of programs to accompany this exhibition. The programs are designed to engage people of all ages.
America @ Work: New Deal Murals in New London and Beyond Programming:
Thursday, March 8
Exhibition opening with a gallery talk by guest curator Barbara Zabel, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Connecticut College. Gallery talk at 6:00 p.m. Reception at 5:00 pm. Members free, non-members $10.
Thursday, March 29
“From Ship to Shore: The Whaling Murals of Thomas LaFarge,” a gallery talk with Robert Richter, Director of Arts Programming at Connecticut College and Connecticut College student Elizabeth Petersen. Gallery talk at 6:00 p.m. Reception at 5:00 pm. Members $5, non-members $10.
Thursday, April 5
“Painters. Politics & Propaganda: The W.P.A.’s “Paint America” Project—An Ongoing Legacy,” a lecture by Philip Eliasoph, Professor of Art History at Fairfield University. Lecture at 6:00 p.m. Reception at 5:00 pm. Members $5, non-members $10.
Saturday, April 7
Free First Saturday
Join us for an afternoon of free admission, free art activities and free snacks each month. Hands-on mural making project in the studio for children of all ages from 1:00 – 3:00 pm.
Check the museum website at www.lymanallyn.org for updates and additional programming.
Tours of the exhibition are available for groups. To schedule tours, call Director of Education Mollie Clarke at 860-443-2545, x 110 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This exhibition is made possible in part by the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, Bank of America, Trustee; the Anthony and Elizabeth Enders Fund; the Lyman Allyn Art Museum Exhibition Fund; and the Department of Economic and Community Development, State of Connecticut.