New Deal Art Disappearing from the Public Sphere

Carved redwood relief by New Deal Artist Sargent Johnson


Carved redwood relief by artist Sargent Johnson – Photo credit: Huntington Library

New Deal art is endangered as post offices are sold off, public buildings shuttered, and artworks are relegated to museum vaults and private collections. The New York Times reports that the University of California misplaced, then sold a 22-foot-wide carving by renowned African-American artist Sargent Johnson. The work, created under the Federal Arts Project, was valued at more $1 million. UC mistakenly sold it for $150. The Living New Deal and the National New Deal Preservation Association are working together to defend the New Deal’s legacy. We’re calling on UC to inventory its New Deal artwork, ensure its safekeeping, and publicly display another Johnson work that is currently in a locked conference room on the Berkeley campus. We’re also investigating the legal ruling the General Services Administration cited when it gave UC permission for the sale, and exploring how the Johnson carving can be returned to the public trust.

Read more at nytimes.com

Take Action:
Contact: Robert J. Birgeneau, Office of the Chancellor UC Berkeley
200 California Hall #1500, Berkeley, CA 94720  (510) 642-7464.

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Check out our latest map and guide to the work of the New Deal in Washington, D.C. It includes 500 New Deal sites in the District alone, highlighting 34 notable sites, and includes an inset map of the area around the National Mall which can be used for self-guided walking tours.

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