Oklahoma City Museum of Art to offer Last Call festivities Thursday for “1934″ art exhibit

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is celebrating Last Call for the special exhibition” 1934: A New Deal for Artists” with special activities beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday at the museum, 415 Couch Drive. Admission will be $5 after 5 p.m. Thursday.

The museum is celebrating Last Call in conjunction with its regular Thursday evening Cocktails on the Skyline event from 5 to 10:30 p.m., with special vintage cocktail tastings and live music by Music Maker.

At 7 p.m., uproarious local comedy duo Twinprov will offer “Living Newspapers, A Performance.”

In the Noble Theater, the museum will show at 7:30 p.m. the final movie in its “1934″ film series: “David Harum.” Oklahoma icon Will Rogers stars as the title character, a skilled horse racer tricked into buying a blind steed.

Also during Thursday’s Last Call, 98.9 KISS FM will host a live remote with Kaci Summers of the Drew & Kaci Show, and curators will give gallery talks. Visitors also can take advantage of gift giveaways and the educational/interactive space in the exhibition.

“1934: A New Deal for Artists” celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Project by drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection of vibrant paintings created for the program. The traveling exhibit closes Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

The 56 paintings in the exhibition are a lasting visual record of America at a specific moment in time. George Gurney, deputy chief curator, organized the exhibition with Ann Prentice Wagner, independent curator.

Federal officials in the 1930s understood how essential art was to sustaining America’s spirit. During the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration created the Public Works of Art Project, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934. The purpose of the program was to alleviate the distress of professional, unemployed American artists by paying them to produce artwork that could be used to embellish public buildings. The program was administered under the Treasury Department by art professionals in 16 different regions of the country.

Artists from across the United States who participated in the program were encouraged to depict “the American Scene,” but they were allowed to interpret this idea freely. They painted regional, recognizable subjects—ranging from portraits to cityscapes and images of city life to landscapes and depictions of rural life—that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work, community, and optimism. These artworks, which were displayed in schools, libraries, post offices, museums, and government buildings, vividly capture the realities and ideals of Depression-era America.

The exhibit is arranged in eight sections: “American People,” “City Life,” “Labor,” “Industry,” “Leisure,” “The City,” “The Country,” and “Nature.” Works from 13 of the 16 regions established by the Advisory Committee to the Treasury on Fine Arts are represented in the exhibition.

The Public Works of Art Project employed artists from across the country including Ilya Bolotowsky, Lily Furedi, and Max Arthur Cohn in New York City; Harry Gottlieb and Douglass Crockwell in upstate New York; Herman Maril in Maryland; Gale Stockwell in Missouri; E. Dewey Albinson in Minnesota; E. Martin Hennings in New Mexico; and Millard Sheets in California.

Ross Dickinson paints the confrontation between man and nature in his painting of southern “California, Valley Farms” (1934). He contrasts the verdant green, irrigated valley with the dry, reddish-brown hills, recalling the appeal of fertile California for many Midwestern farmers escaping the hopelessness of the Dust Bowl.

Several artists chose to depict American ingenuity. Stadium lighting was still rare when Morris Kantor painted “Baseball at Night” (1934), which depicts a game at the Clarkstown Country Club’s Sports Centre in West Nyack, N.Y. Ray Strong’s panoramic “Golden Gate Bridge” (1934) pays homage to the engineering feats required to build the iconic San Francisco structure. “Old Pennsylvania Farm in Winter” (1934) by Arthur E. Cederquist features a prominent row of poles providing telephone service and possibly electricity, a rare modern amenity in rural America.

The program was open to artists who were denied other opportunities, such as African Americans and Asian Americans. African American artists like Earle Richardson, who painted “Employment of Negroes in Agriculture” (1934), were welcomed, but only about 10 such artists were employed by the project. Richardson, who was a native New Yorker, chose to set his painting of quietly dignified workers in the South to make a broad statement about race. In the Seattle area, where Kenjiro Nomura lived, many Japanese Americans made a living as farmers, but they were subject to laws that prevented foreigners from owning land and other prejudices. Nomura’s painting “The Farm” (1934) depicts a darker view of rural life with threatening clouds on the horizon.

For more information, go to www.okcmoa.com.

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