Beauty and Bread
Soup kitchens and food banks made a comeback in the past year as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. During the Great Depression, when hunger stalked the country, the New Deal enacted programs to feed those in need—programs that continue to offer a lifeline today. The New Deal recognized that— like food—beauty also provides nourishment. The WPA not only hired millions of workers to build the nation’s roads and bridges, it also employed struggling artists, writers, musicians, actors and architects to erect a cultural infrastructure—public art, art centers, museums, libraries, parks and gardens. The goal was not only to provide jobs but to bring beauty to Americans wherever they lived. The naturalist John Muir described beauty as a “hunger” shared by every person. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,” he wrote. America is hungry for both.