Date of this Version
Sheldon Museum of Art, Sheldon Art Association
Agents of Change: Mexican Muralists and New Deal Artists features works by artists from Mexico and the United States and demonstrates the close ties between them in the 1930s and' 40s. The exhibition is organized into four sections to include Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA); the Mexican Muralist Movement; a mural study by WPA artist Lucienne Bloch; and the Taller de Grafica Popular.
Mexican muralism, a government public art initiative, sponsored after the 1910 Mexican Revolution, encouraged social change by depicting the ideals and struggles for independence, while elevating and glorifying the indigenous heritage of Mexico. The Mexican muralists were influential in the United States, especially among young, socially minded artists, many of whom later participated in the WPA. The Guggenheim Foundation further strengthened ties to Mexican art when it offered travel funding to Mexico for artists such as Howard Cook, Doris Rosenthal, and Rico Lebrun.
When Roosevelt took the presidential oath in 1933, he faced a nation immobilized by the Great Depression. Artist George Biddle was the first to step forward for struggling artists. After learning about the Mexican Muralist Movement, Biddle wrote President Roosevelt, a childhood friend and schoolmate, and proposed a similar federal program. Roosevelt's New Deal work relief programs put over 8 million back to work, including thousands of artists on various WPA projects throughout the years of 1933 - 1943