Picturing the New DealGAMBIER, Ohio (October 15, 2010)
Images that capture the African American experience in the 1930s make up "Claiming Citizenship: African Americans and New Deal Photography," an exhibition in the Olin Art Gallery at Kenyon College that opens on October 21.
The free exhibition includes the work of eminent photographers, including Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Marjory Collins and Marion Post Wolcott. Curator Rickie Solinger will discuss the exhibition on Thursday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m., in the Olin Auditorium, followed by a reception in the gallery.
"Claiming Citizenship" demonstrates the role of U.S. government programs in opening opportunities for African Americans. Literacy, home-ownership and community-based programs that trained and paid workers and artists helped set the stage for the next-generation civil rights movement.
Solinger examined thousands of New Deal-era photographs in the Library of Congress and the National Archives, gleaning fifty for this exhibit. The photos stored at the Library of Congress were taken under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration by now well-known photographers documenting "the ravages of the Great Depression." Those stored at the National Archives were produced by mostly unnamed photographers whose mission was to document the accomplishments of the New Deal.
"We need to know history better than we do," she said. The exhibit "raises questions about contemporary politics and the kinds of things Americans are struggling to come to terms with now: Who is a citizen? Why is history important? Is the federal government a force for good or not?"
These photographs illustrate "how the role of government has ensured the dignity of Americans" and shed light on a nation getting back on its feet during the Great Depression while shedding some of the elements of an "apartheid labor system," Solinger said. "To be a full citizen, you need to be able to live and work in a country not governed by policies that demand racial degradation."
Solinger is an author, curator, editor, and historian. She is the author of Wake Up, Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade and Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the U.S. as well as other books and articles about reproductive and welfare politics. She is the co-editor of Telling Stories to Change the World: Global Voices on the Power of Narrative to Build Community and Make Social Justice Claims.
She curates art exhibitions associated with the themes of her books, and her shows travel to college galleries, "aiming to interrupt the curriculum." She was the curator for "Picturing Policy: Reimagining Government in the New Deal" and "Reimagining the Distaff Tool Kit."
"Claiming Citizenship" continues through December 11.
The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To learn more about this exhibition and the gallery, contact gallery director Dan Younger by e-mail at email@example.com and by calling 740-427-5346. Please visit the Olin Art Gallery website at www2.kenyon.edu/artgallery.