1935The Federal Art Project began as part of the New Deal.Arts and Culture, Events & Anniversaries, National Events, Art

S. L. Margolies, Storm Over Gloucester, 1935-1939, Etching and aquatint on paper mounted on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration, https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/storm-over-gloucester-16187
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The Federal Arts Project Easel Painting Division hired twenty-seven artists who lived or summered on Cape Ann. Among them were Oscar Anderson, Milton Avery, Theresa Bernstein and William Meyerowitz, Stuart Davis, Nathaniel Dirk, Adolph Gottlieb, Karl H. Gruppé, Marsden Hartley, Max Kuehne, Louis Lozowick, Joseph Margulies, Jan Matulka, Polly Nordell, Carl William Peters, Bertha Menzler Peyton, Philip Reisman, Harold Rotenberg, Mark Rothko, Isaac and Moses Soyer, and Frederick Lincoln Stoddard. Several of the Cape Ann artists were longtime Socialists or at least sympathizers, including Theresa Bernstein and William Meyerowitz, Stuart Davis, Louis Lozowick, Iver Rose, Harold Rotenberg, Isaac and Moses Soyer, Jan Matulka, Charles Allan, and Alice Beach Winter. They already considered themselves cultural workers, productive contributors to society and were comfortable being paid by the government as laborers. They used realism-based styles to illustrate their ideas and depict both society’s ills and their idealistic goals and desires. They were social commentators as well as artists, proposing a just and equitable vision of America.

The art community remained active, partly due to the New Deal art programs. In the 1930s, Cape Ann was an amazing place for art and artists. Artist Erma Wheeler (1915-2005) who visited and worked in Rockport at the time, called it a time of “beautiful balance.” Housing was cheap, so New York artists could visit, teach, and buy homes. Once the federal arts programs were established, many artists earned a living with their art. A New York Times critic came up twice a summer to review the scene, as they did in Provincetown. Summer theater thrived, and the Rockport Art Association Artists’ Ball was the height of the season. During World War II, the art community on Cape Ann dispersed. Many artists joined the military and tourism plummeted, partly due to gas rationing. The Modernists left for Long Island and Provincetown, where the public was more sympathetic to their experimentation.

Interview conducted with Erma Wheeler, 2002. McCarl, Mary Rhinelander, President Roosevelt, Gloucester, and Public Art During the Great Depression, North Shore Arts Association, June 23, 2012
Gloucester Daily Times. “Federal Art Show Will Open Today.” November 22, 1937, Vol. 72 No. 15685 edition. https://sawyer.advantage-preservation.com/.
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