Thursday, February 4, 2016

217 Films: Bringing American Art to Life

“There isn’t enough film footage around about our great American visual culture legacy and I am very passionate about learning more about it.  America has been good to me and I feel that I must give back and I do that by telling stories of American Art; citizenship means giving back.” 
~ Michael Maglaras, Filmmaker

Ashford, Connecticut residents Michael Maglaras and his wife Terri Templeton are producers of films about American Art.  Both come from a performance background.  He is a professional opera singer having performed in the United States and in Europe.  She has been performing professionally since the age of 16, as a musician, singer, songwriter, and actress. Though trained as a professional singer, Maglaras has always had a fascination with visual art.  

Read Barbara Malinsky's article about the films they produce at this link.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

WPA Film Returns to Tyler, Texas



Smith County Historical Society, in collaboration with The Live and Kicking Winners Circle of Tyler, Texas will screen “Enough to Live On:  The Arts of the WPA” on Sunday, March 6 at 2:00pm in the Taylor Auditorium of the Tyler Public Library.

This is the second time this film has been shown in Tyler.  

The Winners Circle is a non-profit organization that serves those who have been in prison or are recovering from addiction.  They are bringing this film back to Tyler for an encore screening as a way to highlight the rich history of African Americans in the arts of the WPA.

Read more about how Tyler, Texas gets how art and community go hand in hand at this link:  They Get it in Tyler, Texas.  

"The imperfection of the American Democracy is 
each day perfected through the strength of its 
citizens and through their belief in the binding force 
of their shared sense of community. 
Civic pride…civic values…the idea of citizenship 
continues to remain strong in Tyler, Texas. 
It’s an example for us all." 
~ Michael Maglaras, Filmmaker

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Screening Dates for Documentaries by 217 Films

New screening dates have been added for 217 Films' documentaries on the arts of the WPA and American illustrator Lynd Ward.  

The full schedule can be viewed at this link.  

Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” was released in 2015 and celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Works Progress Administration and the programs it sponsored to use the arts to help rebuild an America dragged down by the Great Depression. This film takes us on a journey showing us how through the use of painting, sculpture, music and literature, Americans came to understand what had happened to them on that fateful day in 1929 when, as filmmaker Michael Maglaras has written, “America sank out of sight,” to the day in 1939 when Marian Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and we knew we had finally emerged from the grip of our national despair.

This is the sixth film for Ashford, Connecticut filmmaker Michael Maglaras and executive producer Terri Templeton of 217 Films.

"O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward" was released in 2012.  Lynd Ward is the father of the American graphic novel and one of the most prolific book illustrators and printmakers in the history of American art. Featuring more than 150 wood engravings, drawings, and illustrations by this important American artist and storyteller, this 90-minute film brings the creativity of Ward to life and illustrates his mastery of narrative without text. His work chronicles American life in the 20th century, and demonstrates his deep personal commitment to social justice and the plight of the workingman surrounding the years of the Great Depression. Written, narrated, and directed by Michael Maglaras of 217 Films. Featuring interviews with Ward's daughter, Robin Ward Savage. 


In ten years of filmmaking, and by employing a concept which he originated -- the idea of an “essay in film” -- Michael has asked us to stop, look, appreciate, and recognize the importance of our collective American cultural life through films about artists as diverse as Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Lynd Ward, and events such as the world-changing 1913 Armory Show and the arts of the American Depression. 

All of these films are also available through Amazon at this link.  

Screening dates include:

February 10, 2016
10:15am
"O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward"
Fairfield, Connecticut

February 20, 2016
6:00pm
"O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward"
Columbus, Ohio

March 6, 2016
2:00pm
"Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA"
Tyler Public Library -- In conjunction with Smith County Historical Society and The Winners Circle. Tyler, Texas


March 31, 2016
6:00pm
"O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward"
Georgetown Univeristy
Washington, D.C.

April 16, 2016 
1:00pm
"Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA"
Old Greenbelt Theatre 
Greenbelt, Maryland

May 1, 2016
4:00pm
"Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA"
Ludlow, Vermont

May 4, 2016
6:30pm
"Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA"
Norwalk Community College
Norwalk, Connecticut
Special fundraiser for the Westport and Norwalk Historical Societies

September 23, 2016
7:30pm
"Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA"
Fredonia, NY

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

They Get It in Tyler, Texas

By Michael Maglaras

In my film “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” I make mention of the idea that, 80 years after the launch of the WPA, many communities across America still take particular pride in their surviving works from the WPA era.

These works may be in a post office, school, library, or other public space, and many times these works have been maintained and restored by engaged and concerned citizens, who have embraced the idea that when one of these works is lost through neglect or thoughtlessness, the life of each American is diminished.

If I remember correctly, I use the term “civic pride” in the film when I mention how these works that celebrate our return to prosperity from the depths of the Depression have been rescued and restored. There is no better example of this idea than the important work done by the Smith County Historical Society in Tyler, Texas.

When we gave the Texas premiere of Enough to Live On in Tyler, it was under the auspices of the Smith County Historical Society. For a New Englander, Texas is nothing short of a mysterious and miraculous place. It does and it doesn’t appear to be part of America. One is overwhelmed in Texas by the beauty of the landscape, the diversity of the people, the depth of historical perspective, and the warmth and hospitality of Texas citizens.


But in Tyler, Texas…and in particular at the Carnegie History Center…there is also another story: a Depression-era mural done under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project by James Douthitt Wilson in 1934.  A work of Depression-era art still in its original space. Still recognized by the citizens of Tyler as an important and valuable part of their community. Still valued as a reminder of who we once were and who we remain.

As we tour with Enough to Live On, many people come up to me after the screening to tell me about local works of art still on view, created more than 80 years ago under the Federal Art Project and the other projects that encouraged the creativity of Americans who were otherwise weighed down by the horror of the Great Depression. As audience members explain where these works are and describe them to me, there is a sense of wonderment and of deep appreciation in their eyes. This is something local. This is part of a shared heritage. This is part of what it means to have a sense of community.

Whether it be in Tyler, Texas or in any other town or city across America, it is this civic pride in a local example of art created during the Depression that resonates with me. These people get it. They also connect the work in their town with the work done in hundreds of towns across America between 1934 and 1941. They see themselves as a piece of the fabric of an effort to rebuild America, and they are rightly and justifiably proud.

The imperfection of the American Democracy is each day perfected through the strength of its citizens and through their belief in the binding force of their shared sense of community. Civic pride…civic values…the idea of citizenship continues to remain strong in Tyler, Texas. It’s an example for us all.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

217 Films at Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

217 Films is honored to screen our film "O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward" at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on February 20.  Director Michael Maglaras and executive producer Terri Templeton will introduce the documentary and answer questions after the screening.
David Berona, Michael Maglaras and Robert Dance


















This special film showing is in conjunction with two new exhibitions opening that month, "Wordless: The Collection of David A. Berona" and "Dedini: The Art of Humor."
"Wordless" celebrates a century of wordless books—novels and histories told entirely through pictures—and the life of the late David A. Beronä, who was devoted to studying, collecting, and championing this international tradition.  "Dedini" showcases the work of Eldon Dedini, an absolute master of magazine cartoons.
What:   Special film screening of "O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward."  Introduced by filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton
When:  Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 6:00pm
Where:  Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, 1813 N High St., Columbus, Ohio
Cost:  Free
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is one of The Ohio State University Libraries’ special collections. Its primary mission is to develop a comprehensive research collection of materials documenting American printed cartoon art (editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, sports cartoons, and magazine cartoons) and to provide access to the collections.
More about the film:  Lynd Ward is the father of the American graphic novel and one of the most prolific book illustrators and printmakers in the history of American art. Featuring more than 150 wood engravings, drawings, and illustrations by this important American artist and storyteller, this 90-minute film brings the creativity of Ward to life and illustrates his mastery of narrative without text. His work chronicles American life in the 20th century, and demonstrates his deep personal commitment to social justice and the plight of the workingman surrounding the years of the Great Depression. Written, narrated, and directed by Michael Maglaras of 217 Films. Featuring interviews with Ward's daughter, Robin Ward Savage. 2012.  Available on DVD through Amazon.  
 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

John Greenleaf Whittier Remembered











In December, we always think about John Greenleaf Whittier and his masterful poem, "Snow-Bound."  This essay was written by Michael Maglaras in 2010 and we return to it now in appreciation of Whittier and his lasting contribution to American poetry.  Order the CD recording of this poem at this link.

Maglaras writes:  "I know of no other poet who can seduce the ear like Whittier, and a moment later slam his fist down in front of us, reminding us of how we must do better and why we must not settle for interminable indignities...particularly those perpetrated by men against their brothers."

"Snow-Bound" -- An Appreciation
by Michael Maglaras, 217 Records

John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snow-Bound" is his signal work of genius. Whittier wrote many poems of unassailable quality...but "Snow-Bound" is without equal among his poems. It is a work of towering imagination and incandescent beauty. "Snow-Bound" also captures, at once, Whittier's best qualities as a poet and as a man. It is clearly a nostalgic poem. It is, of course, also much more than that. For Whittier's command of lyricism is no better evidence than in this great masterpiece: a poem intended to tug at our hearts, while calling us vigorously to action.


















In "Snow-Bound," Whittier speaks passionately about "the hell of prison torture." Since that particular kind of hell is still with us 144 years after "Snow-Bound" was written, his work can still resonate on many levels and in many ways. When he began the emotional and intellectual journey that culminated with the publication of "Snow-Bound" in February of 1866, he was still mourning the loss of his sister Elizabeth: the two of them had formed a special bond that was hardly understandable by the outside world. (We have dedicated Volume 2 of the Whittier Bicentennial Recording Project to Elizabeth Whittier's memory.)

I know of no other poet who can seduce the ear like Whittier, and a moment later slam his fist down in front of us, reminding us of how we must do better and why we must not settle for interminable indignities...particularly those perpetrated by men against their brothers.

"Snow-Bound" captures a time that we, in the 21st century, only have a hint of understanding. Imagine a two-day blizzard (in the days when we still had two-day blizzards). Imagine a family and their friends brought unexpectedly together, entombed by the snow in a Haverhill, Massachusetts farm house for almost a week, before plows, drawn by teams of oxen, reach them. Imagine a time when a group of persons, forced together by the "shrieking of the mindless wind" in a combination living-dining-and-kitchen area less than 26 feet in length, would have been able to sustain each other, happily, through a week of conversation, fellowship, and mutual understanding...without once having to go "online" to escape boredom. And now, lastly, imagine that experience impressed on the mind of a ten-year-old boy of exceptional talent, sensitiviity, and perception -- this young boy growing into a man able, in his late middle age, to invite us to "stretch the hands of memory forth," so lovingly in "Snow-Bound."

Whittier's hands of memory are more than the hands that reach back into the past; they are also the hands that subtly draw the curtain back and reveal simple lives (or, in the case of Harriet Livermore, a not-so-simple life), and show us how self-sufficient people of intelligence and dignity coped with a storm, the likes of which would most probably reduce us, in our own time, to at best, whining, and at worst, hysteria.

In "Snow-Bound," Whittier's use of language and image is without peer. It is Whittier at his finest...and Whittier at this finest is without equal in the American experience. On Whittier's 80th birthday he was presented with a birthday greeting signed by the President and Vice President of the United States, every member of the United States House, Senate, and Supreme Court. Schools closed in his honor. Streets and towns were being named for him while he was still alive.

Tonight, as we celebrate Whittier's 203rd birthday year, and as you hear "Snow-Bound" read aloud in its entirety (and to hear Whittier read aloud is to take the ultimate joy from his work) and not in some reduced, expurgated edition or performance, I hope you become inspired to take up the cause of Whittier again, so that the depth of his human understanding and the profoundness of his universal message can be passed to a new generation.

~ Michael Maglaras

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