New Mexico angling to become home of New Deal art museum - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico angling to become home of New Deal art museum

The rolling hills of Albuquerque’s Roosevelt Park, which was built in the 1930s by New Deal program laborers. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An effort is underway in New Mexico to build support for establishing a national museum dedicated to the New Deal, the Great Depression-era series of work programs and art initiatives aimed at pulling America from destitution more than 80 years ago.

Supporters say New Mexico would be an ideal home for such an institution as the state received one of the largest amounts of money per capita from the programs, resulting in new schools, post offices, visitor centers and art.

A few months after the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration started the Public Works of Art Project, more than 3,700 artists were hired and thousands of murals, paintings, crafts and sculptures were created for government buildings around the country.

An army of workers built up the national parks and community roads and water systems while musicians preserved folk music and photographers documented life in America.

This 1930s Works Progress Administration painting by Eliseo Rodriguez was discovered in Gallup City Hall in 2011. An effort is underway to rally support for establishing a national museum in New Mexico dedicated to the New Deal, the Great Depression-era series of work programs and art initiatives. (Cable Hoover/Gallup Independent)

The results include images from photographers Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee, early paintings by abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, and a look at pueblo life in New Mexico by Native American artist Pablita Velarde.

“It was an incredibly productive time in our history in terms of arts and culture. This would be a tremendous economic boost to not only Santa Fe but also New Mexico,” said state Rep. Matthew McQueen, a Democrat and supporter of the effort.

Kathy Flynn, executive director of the National New Deal Preservation Association, said many examples of the work done during the era can be found around New Mexico.

She recounted for lawmakers the poverty and joblessness that had spread across the country by the mid-1930s, saying half of New Mexico’s population at the time was considered destitute and the devastating dust storms that swept across the plains made life even harder in eastern New Mexico, where she grew up.

“This government program put everybody to work,” said Flynn, 82. “Most of you sitting here probably had a family member that was involved.”

The memorial pending in the state House of Representatives requests New Mexico’s congressional delegates investigate the possibility of establishing a national New Deal art museum in Santa Fe.

The proposal sailed through its first committee and has the support of House Speaker Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, whose grandfather John Gaw Meem was a well-known architect who designed many New Deal projects. Egolf and Wirth are Democrats.

The memorial suggests the museum could be located in a landmark building on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill. The building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and for decades has housed National Park Service offices. It’s currently undergoing a renovation.

Curating such a museum would likely be a monumental task, and supporters of the New Mexico effort acknowledge the legislative memorial is a first small step in bringing the idea to light.

The Smithsonian has what it describes as an unparalleled collection of artwork created for the Public Works of Art Project. It drew on that collection to put together an exhibition a decade ago that celebrated the 75th anniversary of the project.

There also are reams of material archived by the Library of Congress, including hundreds of the posters created by the Work Projects Administration. The National Gallery of Art also has watercolor renderings from the era and Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and Museum highlight the New Deal as part of his legacy, but there’s no museum specifically dedicated to the period’s artwork.

At the University of California, Berkeley, efforts have been ongoing to create a virtual museum of sorts to catalogue all the New Deal projects and artwork that can be found around the country.

Flynn pointed to murals at Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico Highlands University, saying preservation efforts of sites around the country could be boosted if a national museum were to be created.

“There are just so many stories,” she said. “It affected everybody’s family for the most part during that time and there are connections we can still make today.”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » New Mexico angling to become home of New Deal art museum

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
3 is the key: Lobos aim to cool hot-shooting ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Lobos have been good defending ... The Lobos have been good defending 3-pointers this season, but Utah State leads the nation in 3-point percentage.
2
New Mexico congressional reps assigned spots on high-profile committees
ABQnews Seeker
State's 'unique and vital role' in ... State's 'unique and vital role' in national security noted
3
How much do elected officials in Albuquerque and Bernalillo ...
ABQnews Seeker
Here's how much Mayor Tim Keller ... Here's how much Mayor Tim Keller and other elected officials in the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County make annually.
4
Albuquerque police ID 4 recent homicide victims
ABQnews Seeker
Detectives have released the names of ... Detectives have released the names of three men and one woman killed in separate incidents in January around Albuquerque. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police ...
5
Three Albuquerque seniors tackle the Roundhouse
ABQnews Seeker
What were you doing your senior ... What were you doing your senior year of high school? Albuquerque Academy seniors Noor Ali, Sophia Liem and Mireya Macías are pushing their first ...
6
Alec Baldwin and armorer charged with involuntary manslaughter in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told authorities Alec Baldwin ... Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told authorities Alec Baldwin had failed to attend required firearms training during the filming of “Rust,” so she had requested an hourlong ...
7
Four arrested after woman loses eye to stray bullet ...
ABQnews Seeker
An innocent bystander lost one of ... An innocent bystander lost one of her eyes after being struck in the face by a stray bullet last week while driving on East ...
8
The Mars Volta in ABQ? Find out when they ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Mars Volta are back. After ... The Mars Volta are back. After 10 years away, the duo released its self-titled album in Sept. 2022 — the duo's seventh studio album. ...
9
Quezada files ethics complaints against colleagues
ABQnews Seeker
Bernalillo County's ethics board has another ... Bernalillo County's ethics board has another two cases on its docket. County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada last week filed a pair of complaints against ...