Curio

By Moyer, Steve | Humanities, March/April 2013 | Go to article overview

Curio


Moyer, Steve, Humanities


NEW DEAL MURALS San Francisco lore has it that one afternoon in the late 1850s, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, at age fifteen, threw down her schoolbooks and pitched in to help shorthanded firefighters with a blaze on Telegraph Hill, imploring others to assist as well. "Firebelle Lil" as she came to be called, was from then on an honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5 and rode the fire engine in parades. As an adult she remained one of the city's great characters. She was known to gamble, smoke cigars, wear trousers, and frequent all-male establishments. The daughter of a prominent surgeon, and married young to a much older man who was a caller at the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange, she stipulated upon her death in 1929 that one-third of her estate go to the beautification of the city of San Francisco. The 210foot pillar Coit Tower now graces the summit of Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park, providing tourists with unforgettable views of the city and bay. Completed in 1933, the idea of such a tower was derided at first as an eyesore, but more "beautification" was still to come.

The finishing touches were murals on the interior of the tower, from its base to its summit, depicting California's life and history. Part of the New Deal's Public Works Art Program, twenty-six artists worked under the technical direction of muralist Victor Arnautoff, who had trained with Diego Rivera. The effort to provide artists with meaningful work, not just labor, was a deliberate aspect of the program. A mobile app created by KQED and supported with funds from NEH delves into the historical, political, and social setting of the Coit Tower murals as well as ones at Rincón Annex and another by Rivera originally on Treasure Island (since moved to San Francisco City College). The app is one component of a cross-media project presenting contemporary newspaper articles, presentday interviews with historians, and archival photographs and films.

The murals were controversial at first, especially Bernard Zakheim's Library, in which a browser's hand is grasping a copy of Das Kapital he just pulled from the shelf. In Arnautoff 's City Life, workers eager to buy socialist newspapers and magazines are vying with other readers at a busy kiosk. The context for these scenes was the 1934 Longshoremen's Strike. Other characters and aspects of urban and agricultural life are shown as well, including a thug lifting a wallet at gunpoint, looming smokestacks portending industrial might, and farm laborers packing and loading produce.

The swath of humanity depicted in the murals has undergone damage over the generations from fog, vandals, and workers. The app presents audio and video of interviews with experts Gray Brechin and Robert Cherny on the invaluable cultural resources. "The thing that I find so interesting about the New Deal," says Brechin, "is that right from the get-go the government saw its responsibility to help artists." Cherny adds, "It was the New Deal art projects that made this whole notion of 'the American scene' so prominent in public art - to put ordinary people doing ordinary things. All of those things hadn't really been seen as appropriate subjects for art." Park administrators, arts advocates, historians and academics, and elected officials generally cooperate in caring for the murals, but are forced to share and compete for limited funds - always a bit of a gamble in terms of who comes out on top. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Curio
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.