Friday, August 26, 2016

National Visions

Thanks mostly to the Federal Arts Project in the 1930s (part of FDR's New Deal initiatives to fight the Great Depression), we have some iconic posters that celebrate aspects of American public life.

In celebration of American National Parks, the British-based Guardian has reproduced poster images about the parks, most from the 1930s. Such as the ones I've showcased here.

 The Federal Arts Project, like the Theatre and Writers projects, was designed primarily to employ people, but they left an astonishing legacy, even though none was permitted to last very long.  For one thing, they helped start careers (or kept those careers from foundering) in American arts and letters that lasted for decades. Many famous names worked in these projects.

  The Federal Theatre Project is remembered for innovation, daring and diminishing the distance between theatre and a popular audience.  Professional theatre was almost all in New York until FTP, which seeded the regional theatres of today across America.   It was America's only attempt at subsidized theatre that most civilized countries now find essential, and it worked.  The Writers' Project produced guides to American states that were prized for decades afterwards.

From the Arts Project we have posters such as these, bold designs that are still vibrant.  This was one federal program serving another, and both essential to our national well-being.

Also on this centennial, Grist has a series on National Parks.  This article is an interview with the current National Parks Service director, focused primarily on the challenges presented by the climate crisis, which Jarvis calls "Fundamentally, it’s the biggest challenge the National Park Service has ever faced. I put it there because it fundamentally changes the way we are going to manage our national parks into the future. It’s making us rethink the whole paradigm under which we manage. That makes it really complicated."

But he's been thinking about climate change since the 1980s, and the National Park Service has been seriously planning on ways to deal with its effects for a decade.  That's part of being true public servants and stewards--deal with the realities despite the politics.

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