Archive for January, 2007

WPA / FAP

January 22, 2007

youngtramps.jpgsalut.jpgRecently I have been looking into the cultural programs that were part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. Along with the more well known mural program there was the Federal Theater Project, Federal Writers Project, and Federal Art Project. I have been surprised to find a group of governmental programs which placed genuine value on the arts as an integral part of a populist, democratic society. With the situation we find ourselves in today, I find it hard to imagine a time when having work that was meaningful and constructive was actually valued by society at large. The projects were also dedicated to a high level of artistic excellence and experimentation (they had a solid work ethic). (more…)

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“free and enriching communion”

January 21, 2007

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The following essay is the transcript of a talk entitled “American Resources in the Arts” given by Holger Cahill, head of the WPA’s Federal Art Projects. In this talk, Cahill describes the philosophy behind the WPA/FAP including the theories of John Dewey. Dewey was a progressive educator who believed that schools should educate people to be engaged and empowered citizens. Cahill also touches on other issues still relevant to the arts today, including the separation of the art world from the general public, the alienation of people from creativity brought about by industrialization, and the community-focused nature of folk arts.

I have edited out some sections of the talk. The entire transcript can be found in the book “Art for the Millions” which also has many other first person accounts from folks who were part of the WPA/FAP.

Holger Cahill: American Resources in the Arts

…This wide interest in the arts, this democratic sharing of the art experience, is a comparatively recent development in American life. It is the devoted work of people who, like John Dewey, believe that democracy should be the name of a life of “free and enriching communion” in which everyone may have a part. Certainly this broad, democratic community participation in the creative experience is not implicit in the very form of our society, nor in the European societies from which it developed. In the modern period, up to our time, the opportunities provided for the people as a whole to share in the experience of art have been very few. Even today many persons in the art field in Europe and America cannot go the whole democratic way in the arts. They cannot bring themselves to admit, somehow, that art, the highest level of creative experience, should belong to everybody. Many American artists, many American museum directors and teachers of art, people who would lay down their lives for political democracy, would scarcely raise a finger for democracy in the arts. They say that art, after all, is an aristocratic thing, that you cannot get away from aristocracy in matters of aesthetic selection. They have a feeling that art is a little too good, a little too rare and fine, to be shared with the masses.

(more…)

good things

January 2, 2007

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black star / R.I.P. Fela

January 2, 2007

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en solidaridad con la lucha

January 2, 2007

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On January 1, 1994 the Zapatistas rose up in the state of Chiapas, Mexico for indigenous autonomy and against the corrupt government and neo-liberal free trade. “the globalization of death” as they sometimes call it. As we continue to witness the escalating horrors and disasters of neoliberal (now also commonly called neoconservative) economic and political systems, the Zapatistas continue to offer an example of effective resistance and of actualizing alternative models “where many worlds fit.” The zapatista’s Other Campaign is their current attempt at organizing a form of grassroots democracy throughout Mexico. check out chiapas.indymedia.org for current info.

Here are some images of a mural I worked on in 2005 as part of a project which involved small groups of folks painting murals on the municipal buildings in some zapatista municipalities. The trip was a solidarity action and a way of gaining first hand experience with these people and their lives. As the zapatistas themselves said to us, “It is important for us that you are here because it means that we are not alone, and while you are here you can know that you are also not alone.” The mural was designed with input from the community on the content and imagery they wanted.

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inspiration

January 1, 2007

“No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders.”

Gary Snyder 1969, Buddhism and the Coming Revolution

Against the Culture of War

January 1, 2007

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some thoughts from my sketchbook:

Art that connects with daily life. Imagery connected to local place. Regional folk traditions promote solidarity / solidification of community through physical expression of common values. This localized emphasis is not isolationist but commited to solidarity and common struggle with other locally rooted cultures against the dehumanizing, assimilationist pressures of globalized mono culture.

If we in the United States have also been colonized, so long ago that our cultures, values, and customs have become fully absorbed/identified with the cultures, values, and customs of the elite, imperiealist, capitalist slave masters and their system of corporate fascism, how do we recreate our own culture of liberation? The community empowering creativity and folk cultures derided by the mass culture as quaint and out dated, moved forward and evolved with our own social and cultural context.