Thank God and FDR
Deal Art from Minnesota
Selections from the Ah-Gwah-Ching Archive
- Through Nov. 2, 2008
- At the James J. Hill House
Seventy-five years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged “a new deal for the American people” and thus ushered in a flurry of job programs designed to provide “relief, recovery and reform.” Among the best known was the Works Progress Administration. Established in 1935, the Federal Art Project, a division of the WPA, employed actors, dancers, writers, musicians and artists to perform, create new works of art and teach. In Minnesota, the WPA/FAP employed scores of artists to make art for public buildings such as schools, libraries, post offices and hospitals. Among the recipients of WPA art was Ah-gwah-ching, a state-run sanatorium for tuberculosis patients near Walker, Minnesota.
With the closing of Ah-gwah-ching this year, the Minnesota Historical Society became the proud steward of a large collection of art and objects created between 1935 and 1943. The Ah-gwah-ching archive, as it is now called, consists of 163 objects including 61 oil paintings and watercolors, 72 lithographs, 28 handicraft objects (wood carvings, textiles, metal work) and 2 sculptures.
The WPA/FAP fostered a golden age of art making in Minnesota. More art was made by more Minnesota artists than at any other period preceding it. When assessing the impact of the WPA on Minnesota art, the artists themselves have summarized it most effectively. One artist referred to the period as a “renaissance.” WPA artist Miriam Ibling perhaps summed it up the best when, in a 1982 interview, she exclaimed, “Thank God and Franklin Roosevelt . . .”
Approximately 60 works of art from this archive is now on view through November 2, 2008.
- "The WPA Federal Arts Projects in Minnesota,
by Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr.
Minnesota History 53/5, p. 170-183
- "A Job and a Movement: The WPA Federal Art Project in Minnesota" (PDF)
by Thomas O'Sullivan
Minnesota History 53/5, Spring 1993 p. 184-195
- WPA Photos & Art From the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society
- Collections Up Close blog about the acquisition of the Ah-Gwah-Ching collection
- WPA Art Project - History Topic
- Minnesota's Greatest Generation: Stories about the WPA
- Rustic Style in Minnesota State Parks
- WPA Related Events at the Minnesota Historical Society