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WPA/New Deal Art Preview Exhibit Opens at the Mills Mansion in Mt. Morris

WPA/New Deal Art Preview Exhibit Opens at the Mills Mansion in Mt. Morris

On May 11, 2006 an exhibit of WPA (Works Progress Administration/New Deal) artwork will open inside the walls of the Mills Mansion in Mount Morris, New York.

About 20 works have been selected from an approximate collection of over 250 such historically important arts works. The collection is under the care of Livingston County and is believed to be the second largest collection of its kind outside of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.Ultimately, the entire collection will be displayed in 2007 on the Livingston County Campus at the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts new Gallery and Arts Center.

"People just can't wait to see the artwork and this seemed like a great way to share it with the community," notes Genesee Valley Council on the Arts Executive Director Kathryn Hollinger. "We love working with the folks at the Mills Mansion and it's nice to think that two community treasures are working together."

The work that will be displayed will represent artists about whom much is known as well as work from artists who have slipped into anonymity. Short biographies and other information pertaining to the artists about whom something is known will be part of the display as well.

"We believe that the artwork was chosen as a group and that it was all delivered to the Mount Morris Tuberculosis Hospital (now the Livingston County Campus) together. Many of the works were delivered to the WPA on the same day and we hope to incorporate these historic snapshots in future exhibits, ' adds Hollinger. "There are many pieces that were clearly chosen because of their appeal to children, and we plan to have some fun with that, too."

The artwork was created during the depression as part of the New Deal. There were programs to create new art, music, theatre, dance and architecture as well as the Civilian Conservation Corps which created so many beautiful structures in our parks, a writing program that promoted the different regions in the United States, arts schools for both children and adults and a photography program to document the program and the nation. There were also numerous building and promotional offices as well. This was ostensibly to put artists and other people to work, but according to some scholars, the New Deal art program's purpose was to create an independent American cultural identity apart from the European ideal and to make art approachable and offer hope to everyone during this difficult time.

In the future the GVCA plans to feature rotating exhibits of the work and develop a website with photos and artist information. In the meantime, they are working to find funds for the restoration and cleaning of the artwork and frames. Plans include an "adopt a painting" program, additions of WPA items to their online shop www.cafepress.com/geneseevalley

"Unfortunately, time has not been kind to this artwork, but it is all in a restorable state. We're very lucky to have so many pieces of this puzzle fall into place," says Hollinger. "We are so lucky to have so much community support for this project."

"The significance of this collection and where it will be displayed has a natural tie in to tourism here in Livingston County," notes Livingston County Tourism Director Lisa Burns, "It is an amazing collection with immense historical appeal for all U.S. citizens, particularly for the 'Greatest Generation' and has vast possibility to enhance visitation into our beautiful community."