Celebrating the New Deal through art

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By Kirsten Laskey

The New Deal era was a “very pivotal time for our state,” said Hedy Dunn, director of the Los Alamos Historical Society. There were political aspects that contributed to the era’s importance but also cultural aspects as well.

New Deal nurtured a real outpouring of creativity by employing more than 150 artists and craftsmen through the federal Work Progress Administration (WPA). In 1930s, artists from across the country and the world came to New Mexico because they were drawn to the state’s moderate climate, sculpture, furniture and crafts. More than 40 New Mexico cities and towns benefited from their work on federal projects.

Murals were painted on public buildings and paintings, pottery, sculpture, furniture and crafts were made for numerous public institutions. About 1,000 of these works are still in existence in New Mexico and can be seen today.

A few of these existing pieces can be viewed at the Los Alamos Historical Museum this month. Forty photographs of historic buildings and paintings depicting mountain landscapes and New Mexico lifestyles are included in this traveling exhibit. A few local scenes can be spotted in exhibit. Bandelier National Monument was featured in Pablita Velarde’s art. Other artists associated with the exhibit include Oscar Berninghaus, Emil Bisttram, Wiliam Penhallow Henderson, Victor Higgins, Gene Kloss and Will Shuster.  Dunn said she brought the exhibit to Los Alamos because “I thought it would be an attractive show.”

Plus, it fit in nicely with Albuquerque historian David Kammer’s lecture about the New Deal, which was held Tuesday.

Dunn encourages people to view the artwork. “We like to have a variety of shows and change the exhibits to make it a new adventure when visitors and locals come in. There’s something new for them to see,” Dunn said.

The current exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of the New Deal, a period of time that produced a multitude of art. Dunn said, “New Deal art is such a rich cultural legacy for the state of New Mexico.”

The museum, located at 1050 Bathtub Row, is open from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.  For more information at 662-6272 or visit the Web site: www.losalamoshistory.org.