4-4 New Deal 75th
SANTA FE -- This month begins a year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the New Deal. Even if you aren't old enough to have been around 75 years ago, you've probably heard something about the New Deal.
These were the federal programs instituted after the election of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. The nation had been in the throes of the Great Depression for over three years. Roosevelt promised to lead us out of the economic crisis, if elected.
He began immediately after his inauguration in March, 1933, with a series of 15 major pieces of legislation passed by Congress during the famous "First Hundred Days" of the Roosevelt Administration.
That phrase has been copied, paraphrased and misused many times since 1933, most recently with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "First 100 Hours" initiative at the beginning of the 2007 Congress.
It was a pretty amazing feat for Roosevelt, but the nation was desperate. Government suddenly became the solution to our problems. It worked well enough that big government remains a major part of our lives 75 years later.
And it didn't stop after 100 days. New programs kept coming to aid farmers, industry, banks, laborers, poor families, rural families, the elderly, artists, public health, conservation, recreation and public education.
Thousands of public buildings constructed during that era still stand throughout our nation. And many of them are decorated with murals, sculptures and paintings. After all these years, the fascinating origins of many of those buildings and pieces of art have been forgotten.
One of the goals of the organizations and agencies promoting this 75th anniversary commemoration is the identification and highlighting of the New Deal's many contributions to the nation's well-being and prosperity.
New Mexico has had a head start in the awareness of the New Deal in our state. Our state's art community had begun springing up during the Roaring '20s. With the Depression of the '30s, the market for anything but bare essentials dried up.
New Mexico's artists were put to work decorating courthouses, schools, state and federal buildings, city halls and parks. As some of those building lay decaying and their art forgotten, a project was started about a decade ago to identify, catalogue and publicize their works.
Chief mover in the project was Kathy Flynn, who worked New Deal art into Blue Books for two secretaries of state and then helped form the National New Deal Preservation Association, which she now serves as executive director.
That organization is leading the 75th anniversary effort in conjunction with agencies such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Postal Service. Also participating are organizations honoring Franklin Roosevelt, state rural electric associations, and state humanities councils.
In New Mexico, a traveling photography exhibit is being prepared featuring our New Deal sites and treasures. The 13 towns participating in the state's Mainstreet program will feature their New Deal treasures. And the New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture plans three-day symposia on New Deal Native American accomplishments.
Flynn reports that a surprising number of New Mexico alums of New Deal programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, are active in the state and will be involved in commemoration activities.
Of course, everyone is invited to participate. If you are interested, you can contact Flynn at P.O. Box 602, Santa Fe 87504. Call her at (505) 473-3985 or e-mail her at email@example.com.