History Center to show Depression-era art

by James Chute

Friday, August 17, 2012
History Center to show Depression-era art

SAN DIEGO

The San Diego History Center has entered into anagreement with the San Diego Unified School District that allows it to show a series of rare, Depression-era paintings that for decades hung in public schools and administration buildings.

The exhibit, “Landscapes Rediscovered: DepressioneraSan Diego Paintings,” opens Sept. 7 at the HistoryCenter in Balboa Park.

“It’s a project five or six years in the making,” said Charlotte Cagan, the History Center’s acting director. “These paintings represent a very rich legacy, and it’s a story that hasn’t been fully told.”

The History Center and the school district have been discussing how to deal with the approximately 100 canvasses, some as old as 70 years, in the possession of the district.

The collection includes images by Charles Reiffel, Maurice Braun and others, many commissioned by theWorks Progress Administration during the Great Depression for the enhancement of public spaces.Most feature well known locations such as Point Loma and Mission Hills.

Over the decades, time and neglect have taken a toll.Individual paintings have been damaged and some wereeven used as school projects, including a set that werereframed in a shop class at La Jolla High School.

The History Center has agreed to “take custody” of 17of the 100 paintings, which technically belong to the federalGeneral ServicesAdministration. Of those paintings,11 will be on display in “Landscapes Rediscovered.”

“We’re showing them ‘as is’ because that’s part of the story,” Cagan said. The History Center, however, is initiating a campaign for the conservation and restoration of the works and iscollaborating with San Diego Unified in developing programs that would educate children about the significance of the work.

San Diego History Center (SDHC) is dedicated to helping people of all ages learn about, and enjoy, the history of San Diego, and to appreciate how our past, present, and future are interrelated. It is a museum, education center, and research library founded in 1928. SDHC serves as the region’s largest repository of historical research materials including 2.5 million photographs, tens of thousands of paintings, work of art on paper, decorative arts items, costumes, industrial artifacts and other items that document San Diego’s history.

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