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Visual Arts

‘Deal’ of the century

It was a very good year — for art, at least — as the Great Depression yielded paintings depicting the American way, now on display in ‘1934.’

Rod Lott May 25th, 2011

1934: A New Deal for Artists
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch 236-3100
$12, $10 seniors and children 6-18

What’s the big deal with “A New Deal”?

Lots, according to Alison Amick, curator at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, where the exhibition opens Thursday for a summer run. With 56 paintings, “1934: A New Deal for Artists” celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Project — the first program that addressed federal funding in the arts, she said. “It’s interesting from that regard, just looking back in history at this particular period of time and the paintings that came out of it,” Amick said.

Those paintings — culled from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. — were commissioned for use in public buildings during the program’s six-month life, financially aiding artists nationwide in the thick of the Great Depression.

“What artists were encouraged to paint was the American scene,” Amick said. “So we have in this exhibition artworks that depict a range of subjects ... and you really get a feel for America at that time. These paintings are also a nice documentation of this really critical and really interesting point in American history.”

Visitors will see images that depict wildly divergent elements, from San Francisco’s opulent Golden Gate Bridge to Southern California tenements, from farms to subways. As the United States climbs out of the Great Recession, viewers may notice themes that remain vital.

“The topic stays relevant, so that’s another layer of interest,” Amick said. “I think you can come to the exhibition from many different levels, and that’s what makes this so interesting.”

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