Framing the Hammer episode 106 brings us Troy Plumer, a Louisville, KY-based master’s student in history. Troy is an aficionado, though not a trained expert by his own admission, with the era around the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the Great Depression and arts funding during that period. Troy contributed a guest blog to the 4A Arts website that’s full of interesting historical tidbits and soaring rhetoric around how art lifts us all to new heights. This interview on Framing the Hammer reflects his poetic passion for art and history.
Troy’s knowledge of the era is dense and he enthusiastically references articles, objects, and people that are all worth their own podcasts.
We could use art as positive propaganda – in the same way one looks at…songs when we feel low.
– Troy Plumer
- Ben Davis wrote a fantastic article dispelling myths and current day misinterpretations of the New Deal and how the struggles of artists today compare to those of the 1930’s. “ArtNet.com” – 2021
- Francis V. O’Connor was a historian who wrote extensively on the Federal Art Project, including about the New Deal Art Projects in New York
- Troy mentioned the Thomas Heart Benton murals scattered across the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana. Every few years, incoming classes protest the depiction of the KKK on the murals, prompting discussions of the appropriateness of Benton’s inclusion of the KKK members, whether the murals should be replaced or amended, and the depiction causes trauma. One quippy tidbit from Troy was his reiteration of a truism related to the study of history: “If you’re looking at history and you’re comfortable all the time, you’re probably not doing good history.”
- Artist James Huntley was a good friend at Indiana University. Troy shares the painting he purchased from James entitled “Machine Shop” (at top).
- Maria Huntley is an artist and dear friend of Troy’s mentioned in the podcast. Troy commissioned her work “No Time for Falling Skies” (below).
- George Biddle was an artist and classmate of FDR who helped foment the idea of employing artists in WPA projects.
- Harry Hopkins was FDR’s right hand and stated, “Hell, those people gotta eat, too,” when faced with the contemporary status of artists.
- Holger Cahill ran the Federal Art Project as part of the WPA.