Sunday, September 15, 2019

Salem Federal Art Center was a New Deal Project; Think about a Green New Deal Now

There's a nice piece in the Sunday paper today about the Salem Federal Art Center at the tail of the Great Depression and the run up to World War II.

Salem Federal Art Center at the old high school
(From a history of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis)

in the Sunday paper
While the piece acknowledges it as a New Deal program, it may not give sufficient weight to the context of the Depression, Keynesian stimulus in New Deal programming and employment, and the politics of it all. Instead it's framed as more of a local story in the history of arts groups and arts education. That's not at all wrong, of course, but the story isn't just about plucky locals and their love for the arts. There is more to it, and some of it more radical.

(Multnomah County Library
and several more here)
Still, even apart from the national context and federal programming, here in Salem the politics may have been drained or disconnected. In The Federal Art Project and the Creation of Middlebrow Culture, Victoria Grieve argues that Salem avoided politics and this helped sustain the center past the end of federal funding.

Reasons it may have continued
Over at On the Way, Bonnie Hull has also written a little about the center.

The school, at the site of Macy's today,
demolished for Meier & Frank
(Salem Library Historic Photos,
and see this just before demolition in 1953)
It's also part of the story of redevelopment, as the old high school had been abandoned for what we call North High now, and it was demolished in 1953 for the Meier & Frank department store.

There are many layers!

As we consider and remember, too, New Deal projects, we should consider the scope of climate disruption and ways we ought to mobilize against that. There are strong reasons to consider a Green New Deal now. Consider the rally on Friday the 20th. Our chapter has links to other events also, including a September 27th requiem for Salmon.

Friday, September 20th is a big day
(Previously, "The New Deal in Salem Still has a Meaningful Legacy" on other New Deal/WPA projects in Salem.)

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