The Great Depression was definitely not the good old days, yet that's when the federal government actually came to the rescue of artists! My friend Susan Quinn has written a book about this, Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times, and she's coming to Schwartz on Oakland to talk about it this Thursday, July 10, at 7 PM.
Studs Terkel wrote: "Susan Quinn has gifted us with a key moment in the history of F.D.R.'s New Deal. Especially thrilling and revelatory is the work of the Arts Project of the WPA. Not only were there rakes and shovels, jobs and food for family, there was exhilarating and hopeful theatre, music, and painting, lifting our spirits. They gave us all hope." And here's an excerpt from a Publisher's Weekly starred review: "Quinn (Marie Curie) does a superb job of recounting the rise and fall of the Federal Theatre Project…describes eloquently and artfully a not-so-distant time when a nation bled and great artists rushed as healers into the countryside. "
Susan is an excellent writer, so come to her book talk and signing:
Thursday, July 10, 7:00 pm
Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, 4093 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, Wisconsin
People use a plastic bag, and then what? Into the garbage, into the gutter, into the tree, into the sea. I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic bags recently. China actually banned them! So did San Francisco. And New York is thinking about it. I looked at the Reusable Bag website, which made me think even more about these airy objects that flutter through our lives for minutes or hours, then remain on earth forever.
I’m a member of the Shorewood Conservation Committee, and we, too, want to do something about the bag problem! For the past nine months we’ve been working on a major project: designing, getting sponsors for, and producing reusable bags to distribute to all 6900 households in Shorewood. And now we've finally come to the big moment, the distribution stage. Here's our plea for volunteers:
Awareness of the Shorewood Conservation Committee (the ConCom) is growing in the village and will really go through the roof when all 6900 households receive one of our reusable green bags on July 19th.
We've already collated and paper-clipped together 13 inserts for each of the bags, including one that introduces the ConCom and gives green hints. Now we need volunteers to stuff the bags with the collated inserts and to deliver them. Specifically, we need volunteers for the following:
Thursday, July 17th, 9:30 - 5:30, 6:30-8:30 Village Hall
Friday, July 18th, 9 - 5:30, Village Hall
Saturday, July 19th 8am-noon, Village Center North (lower level library)*This is a back-up shift only, please try to make one of the other two days.
Saturday, July 19th, 9-5, Village Center North (lower level library). We hope you'll come early and stay as long as you can! Volunteers will arrive throughout the day.
Please email Kim F. <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call her at 332-7024 if you’d like to help.
On Sunday I glanced at the lake from Atwater Bluff, expecting nothing special. Yet it was spectacular! What made the lake look that way? There were dark streaks, turquoise streaks, and a startling band of white in the distance, probably a mix of mists and cloud reflections.
That's what's so fascinating about life: I never know what I'll find somewhere until I get there, what friends, what strangers, what mists.
I of course have no idea who will show up at Friday night's reception in our gallery. I do know what work is there! Adolph recently moved his BALCONY from the Regent's Board Room at UWM's Chapman Hall to the gallery, and his Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter is still there. I just set up a show of dancer drawings that I did last year when Margot Sappington was setting Common People for the Milwaukee Ballet. These drawings aren't yet on our web site, but some earlier dancers are. Our guest artist is Joe Boblick. You can see his work in the MIAD Online Gallery.
As for the Artist Marketplace on Saturday, I'm not yet sure what sculptures, what paintings, what drawings we'll use, don't know if our tent will consent to another fair, don't know if the weather will be fair. What I do know are the details of both events, if all pans out as planned:
FRIDAY, July 25, 7 to 10 PM, reception at Rosenblatt Gallery, work by Adolph & Suzanne Rosenblatt & Joe Boblick, 181 N Broadway, in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward
SATURDAY, July 26, 10 AM to 5 PM, Fourth Annual Artist Marketplace, in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee
Every now and then a bus ride may take an unexpected turn. Or perhaps all bus rides do. Sometimes there’s a conversational hum. You think the bus is full of chattering friends, look around, and everyone’s sitting alone, cell phones pressed to ears.
Sometimes people are actually talking, over the sounds of the street, to visible companions. Strangers meet, discover they’ve both spent time in jail, and a long and fascinating discussion ensues. Too bad I didn’t take notes.
Then there’s the incident I witnessed last week. A large black woman in a wheel chair rolled onto the bus, which meant that a pudgy man, grey beard and baseball cap, had to move out of the handicapped section. Nothing unusual. If you sit at the front of the bus, you have to be ready to give up your seat.
When we got to Wisconsin Avenue, the woman rolled her chair towards the door, and the man popped back instantaneously into his original seat, right opposite me. He muttered something I missed, made a gesture I didn’t see, and the woman lost her cool, really lost it. She suddenly backed her chair to where it had been, and screamed and swore at the man. He had a nasty reply for everything she aimed at him, replies I’d never quote in a blog. Finally she howled, “I’m gonna slap you across the face!”
“You do that, and I’ll press charges.”
What had I missed, what had he said and done?
“Tell that man there what you did,” and she pointed to another onlooker. “Would you do that to your mother? You can’t treat me like that, this isn’t 1864. I’m not a slave, I’m a person, I’m a human being!”
Some of the other passengers snickered; I felt like crying.
“I’m not getting off, I’m staying right here.” Ah hah, then the man would have to change his seat again.
The volley continued, hatred batted back and forth, as I sat unobserved inches from the fray. “There’s nothing wrong with you, you don’t even need that wheelchair.”
“You don’t know what I have, you m... f....!”
The bus driver got up and left, and returned a few minutes later with a transit official.
“This man has problems,” said the onlooker, who seemed to be a regular rider. After a short discussion, the official escorted the beard-belly-baseball cap off the bus. The bus driver wanted to help the woman in the wheelchair off.
“I’m not getting off here and have that guy harass me!”
“Don’t worry, he’s not coming near you,” and she finally got off at her stop.
“So is the show over?” asked a passenger.
It wasn’t over for the actors in the show, and it wasn’t over for me.