(or, solidARTity - if it slips past the editor. Yep, it has.) Hello - & bienvenue.
With this newsletter, my intention is to share others’ art.
Every now & again, I might throw in an original piece or three of mine, but
it’s really about exploring the makers & the movers. Sound good?
Let’s get cracking, shall we?
FEATURED THEME: FEDERAL ART PROJECT
If the pandemic has put anything under a microscope, it’s equality.
In so many different ways, we’ve seen how the economic priorities
of governmental bodies shift when it comes to choosing which sectors merit investment. Unsurprisingly,the creative arts have been left to fend for themselves - & woe betide anyone whose income relies on any vocation tied to the field.
Reverse through the calendar, however, & you’ll see that this is an ideological choice rather than a necessity. In 1935, the United States was still dealing with repercussions of 1929’s unmitigated poonami, the stock market crash & its subsequent Great Depression.
Under the ‘3 Rs’ (relief, recovery, reform) of his New Deal, President Franklin D Roosevelt was determined to see that as many people as possible would benefit from the government’s recovery plan - & he didn’t forget how integral the arts are to a robust society.
Notorious FDR had already wheeled out his Works Progress Administration &, under its umbrella, Holger Cahill spearheaded the creation of the Federal Art Project.
PROMOTIONAL POSTER FOR THE FEDERAL ART PROJECT
An ambitious palliative measure, its objective was to employ artists to create graphics, posters, murals & theatre design, as well as to support traditional arts & crafts. All told, the initiative sustained over 10,000 creative people (including the likes of Jackson Pollock) - & it made a special effort to ensure the participation of ethnic minorities & women in its remit. One of those non-white, non-males was Georgette Seabrooke.
FEATURED ARTIST: GEORGETTE SEABROOKE
Born in South Carolina on 2 August 1916, Georgette was the
only child of working class parents. Despite losing her father
shortly after the family had moved to New York City, George did well in school - even though, at the time, she was also working alongside her mum as a domestic housekeeper!
GEORGETTE SEABROOKE, BUSY AT WORK ON 'RECREATION IN HARLEM'
Art seems to have been her destiny: she was, at only 17 years of age,admitted to the Cooper Union School of Arts. Accolades rained upon the student & she was awarded the school’s highest honour, the Silver Medal.This achievement may have played a role in her having been approached to take part in the Federal Art Project - & she was, indeed, the youngest artist involved in the programme. In the photo above, she’s painting on the wall at Harlem Hospital what became a tableau of 20 feet that depicts daily life in the district.
True to reality, the ‘clients’ (in this case, hospital management) weren’t pleased with her final draft. Georgette was asked to include white people in the mural so as not to reinforce the image of a ‘negro hospital’. To add insult to injury, the work was painted over after having survived fire damage & it wasn’t until 2012 that it was restored for the hospital’s Mural Pavillion.
In adulthood, George founded Operation Heritage Art Center in Washington (District of Columbia), where she became a registered art therapist. Homelessness & mental health played on Georgette’s conscience &,during the decades of the 70s & 80s, she focussed on painting portraits of homeless people in order to raise awareness of both the issue itself & of her subjects' inherent humanity.
Seabrooke died in 2011, of cancer - but we can & must keep her flame alight.
Got feedback or just want to wag chins about art/history/politics/arthistorypolitics? Find me on Twitter (not always entirely suitable for general audiences. I swear. A. Lot.)
I’d fucking LOVE IT if you’d subscribe to my substack.