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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU museum displays artwork and artifacts from 1930s

Photographs of murals painted throughout New Mexico in the 1930s as part of the New Deal art projects are on display at the New Mexico State University Museum through Feb. 24, 2001.

An opening reception of the exhibit, "WPA Art in the 1930s," will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at the museum in Kent Hall.

WPA, which stands for Works Progress Administration, was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs. It was intended to support artists throughout the United States and bring art to the average people of America who otherwise never would have had a chance to experience it, said Terry Reynolds, curator of the university museum.

"Roosevelt wanted these artists to portray a new way of looking at America," Reynolds said. "He wanted this 'community art' to show the strength of the American worker and the cultural traditions of the area. You can see that representation come alive in the images of hard working cowboys and mailmen. The paintings by Anglo, Hispanic and Native American artists found in public buildings throughout the state capture the regional traditions of the Southwest."

The photographs are part of a conservation effort from the New Deal Art Restoration Task Force in Santa Fe, which hired photographers to take photos of the artwork that was created in New Mexico. The task force is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to preserve the history of the New Deal artwork, said Jon Hunner, director of the public history program at NMSU.

The opening reception will be followed by a lecture by Hunner, who will present an overview of some of the federal Depression-era programs such as the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC, through its many building projects, provided an infrastructure of buildings, roads and airports to the Southwest, Hunner said.

In addition to the photos that represent the work of 21 WPA artists, several artifacts such as furniture, a sewing machine and other home accessories will be on display. Though the artifacts do not represent items created as part of the New Deal programs, they are there to give patrons a sense of what could be found in the homes in the 1930s, Reynolds said.

The University Museum is located at the corner of University and Solano and is open from 12 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information call Debbie Hill at (505) 646- 3739.

Chris J. Minnick
Nov. 21, 2000