Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New film on the arts of the WPA features the Harlem Renaissance

Our new film "Enough the Live On: The Arts of the WPA" will include a section about the Harlem Renaissance and the groundbreaking work of the great muralist Aaron Douglas.

This clip from the film is introduced with the poetry of Langston Hughes and features a composition by African American composer William Grant Still and an appearance by the remarkable blues singer Juanita Hall.

“Enough to Live On”: Film Clip Featuring the Arts of the Harlem Renaissance from 217 Films on Vimeo.

"Enough to Live On:  The Arts of the WPA" is written and directed by Michael Maglaras of 217 Films and will make its world premiere on May 14 at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Follow this link for our most up to date screening schedule.  New screening dates are being added frequently.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Des Moines Art Center to Screen 1913 Armory Show Film

Our next screening of "The Great Confusion: The 1913 Armory Show" will be held Thursday, March 26 at the Des Moines Art Center.  This special screening is part of the programming for the Center's new exhibit on Antique Abstraction, which opens on March 13.

Filmmaker Michael Maglaras will introduce the film.  Reservations are free. More information can be found at this link.  An excerpt from "The Great Confusion: The 1913 Armory Show" can viewed at this link.

A recent review in The Dartmouth said of “The Great Confusion” that “Michael Maglaras...brought the drama of the original show back to life.” Mike Holtzclaw said in the Daily Press, “For anyone who enjoys art, this is an eye opening film.”

More about the film:  From February 17 until March 15, 1913, thousands of Americans pushed their way through the doors of the 69th Regiment Armory on the east side of New York City while a battle was waging “for or against” Modern Art for the first time.   What they saw would annoy and infuriate some...and captivate, delight, and inspire many.

What resulted from these four weeks of mass exposure to European artists such as Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, and the upstart Marcel Duchamp (with his “Nude Descending a Staircase”), as well as such Americans as Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Charles Sheeler, changed how Americans came to understand their own times. By entering through the doors of an armory, they had entered through the doors of the Modern Era.  

“The Great Confusion:  The 1913 Armory Show” features more than 60 works by American and European painters and sculptors and probes deeply into the history of how the show was organized. It provides fascinating glimpses into the backstage efforts of the American artists Arthur B. Davies, Walter Pach, and Walt Kuhn as they worked tirelessly to bring a new art to a new American audience.

Produced by 217 Films.  Written, directed and narrated by Michael Maglaras.  Executive Producer Terri Templeton.  2013.  NR.  90 Minutes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Associated Press Interviews Filmmaker Michael Maglaras

Film highlights art from Works Progress Administration

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eighty years after the federal Works Progress Administration put unemployed artists to work creating sculptures and murals for post offices and courthouses comes this reminder from film maker Michael Maglaras: Look around.

Much of the art is still there and has as much meaning now as it did during the Great Depression, says Maglaras, whose documentary "Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA" will be released May 15.

The 90-minute production by his Connecticut-based 217 Films revisits the inclusion of artists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA program, better known for the bridges and buildings that it paid workers to build.

The arts piece offered creative types like Sinclair Lewis, Orson Welles and Jackson Pollock $42 a week.

This undated photo provided by Andy Olenick shows a lift operator positioning the camera unit in front of one of the Carl Peters murals at the Wilson Foundation Academy in Rochester, N.Y. Carl W. Peters' 1937 paintings "Life of Action" and “Life of Contemplation, are showcased in the new film “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA.” (AP Photo / Courtesy of Fotowerks Ltd., Andy Olenick)

"The goal was that you would walk into a public space - a post office, federal office building, courthouse - and you would be transacting your business, standing in line, passing through a hallway ... and look at what was on the wall," Maglaras said, "and what was on there would spiritually enlighten you and lift you up and take you away from the terrible burdens that all Americans were suffering during the Depression, and give you confidence and hope for the future."

"Our film," Maglaras said in a telephone interview, "is about recapturing, 80 years later, what it was like during the Depression to put people back to work, and not just folks that could use a pick and shovel, but folks that wrote books and painted paintings and wrote plays."

Among 100 featured works is a 1936 Orson Welles production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth featuring an all-black cast and set in Haiti, instead of Scotland.

"This is a 21-year-old Orson Welles and we have found archival footage that no one believed existed of rehearsals for this play," Maglaras said.

“Life of Action,” Carl W. Peters, 1937. Mural. Photography:
Fotowerks/St. Clair Photo Imaging, Rochester, NY.
Also featured are two murals, each 22 feet high, painted over eight months in 1937 by artist Carl Peters inside a school in Rochester, New York. Peters drew on the passing faces of students and teachers at the former Madison High School for "Life of Action," a softly colored depiction of construction workers in the shadow of a skyscraper. The companion "Life of Contemplation" is meant to show the need to balance action with education and thoughtfulness.

Madison High was torn down in the 1980s but the murals were saved and moved to another school, the Wilson Foundation Academy, where both are now preserved behind glass.

Other works have been lost or scattered through the years. The U.S. General Services Administration is in the process of tracking down the tens of thousands of pieces created through 1943. At last count, more than 20,000 works had been inventoried.

The agency said the artwork is most commonly found when it's offered for sale.

"GSA has been contacted by museums staff, appraisers, lawyers, state and local government officials, conservators, scholars, and citizens with information regarding New Deal artwork," the GSA said in a statement. "In some instances, special agents and GSA staff have found New Deal artwork by searching online auction houses."

Maglaras said enough still exists in their original locations to make a state-by-state tour.

"Walk into a post office and buy a stamp in very small towns in Missouri, Montana, Illinois, Maine and see up on the wall something that was created by an artist that Franklin Roosevelt essentially hired to help lift America out of the Depression," he said. "We still have a ton of WPA art within our grasp."

The documentary will premiere at the New Britain, Connecticut, Museum of Art and then tour the country through December.