Earlier this week, I had a nice visit with my friend Lisa Eriksen at the California Historical Society, who gave me a tour of their current exhibition Hobos to Street People: Artists' Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present (February 19- August 15, 2009) which features works by New Deal-era artists such as Dorothea Lange, Rockwell Kent, and Giacomo Patri along with contemporary artists such as Sandow Birk, David Bacon, and Christine Hanlon. I was amazed and impressed by the range of work in this show and astonished to learn that admission is FREE (donations appreciated :-).
CHS has many events of interest planned concurrent with the show (calendar here), including artist talks with printmakers and photographers. One that is of particular interest to me is on July 2nd, called The History of Public Funding and the Arts – the Legacy of the New Deal. The speakers are murals/public art scholar Tim Drescher, labor graphics specialist/author Lincoln Cushing and Mark Johnson, director of the Fine Arts Gallery at SFSU. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Gray Brechin, project scholar for the California’s Living New Deal Project. “Funding public artwork benefits more than the artists – viewers witness their space transformed as the art enhances the urban landscape,” states the CHS site, “The arts were greatly supported during the New Deal era and many WPA projects are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the recent election of a new president, will money be used to fund art and culture? Panelists speak to the similarities between the present era and the New Deal as they relate to public arts and government funding.” With the economy very much on everyone’s mind, I find the topic very timely.