Sunday, April 24, 2016

Film Chronicles WPA Art in Norwalk

Film chronicles WPA art in Norwalk
By Silvia Foster-Frau Updated Apr 22, 2016

NORWALK -- Eighty-one years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt decided to save his country from the Great Depression by arming it -- with artists.

And the remnants of that effort can be found in more than 30 murals around Norwalk.

“He believed that he had to bring America together. He believed that you have to keep artists off the streets and using their talents and skills and he was determined to do that. And as I show in this film, by 1939 we were essentially out of the Depression,” said Michael Maglaras, a documentary filmmaker of 217 Films from Ashford.

The Norwalk Arts Council, Historical Society and Westport Historical Society will be screening Maglaras’ film “Enough to Live on: The Arts of the WPA” at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at Norwalk Community College’s PepsiCo Theater.

Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, which commissioned thousands of artists across the country, funded more than 50 murals in Norwalk. With 31 murals in City Hall alone, the town is considered as having one of the highest concentrations of restored Depression-era art in the country.
“When we look at a piece of WPA art, we remember something fundamental of America: the breadth and depth of our artistic heritage,” said Maglaras.

The event starts with a 5:30 p.m. meet-and-great with Maglaras, producer and director, and his co-producer and wife, Terri Templeton. It’s part of NCC’s monthly film series. It’s free and open to the public.

“I’m hoping to give a hardworking filmmaker an audience,” said Gary Carlson, English Professor at NCC and founder of the NCC film series program. “Especially when he’s telling the story of a time when the government thought the arts were important enough to sponsor.”

The Norwalk Historical Society and Arts Commission reached out to Maglaras after finding out that his team had been scoping out Norwalk art to potentially include in the documentary.

Though the art was not featured in the end, a Norwalk native was. Robert Reynolds, 91, whose father lost his job during the depression, speaks in the film about seeing artists at the post office painting federally-commissioned murals and explains how that affected him.

“It shows the value that art had been and always has to ground us, to center us, to remind us that there are things greater than our particular trouble on that particular day,” said Maglaras. “The one thing that the WPA federal art project did, it gave someone a chance to look at a work of art… and for a moment, by grounded in something lasting and important.”

He spent 14 months working on this film and has shown it at a handful of locations around Connecticut. Maglaras said he and Templeton are the only American filmmakers that have been asked four times to screen their work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

“It’s easy to despair, to say ‘How can we make it right? How can we make it better?’” said Maglaras. “… But what I hope this does is make people feel upbeat about America’s future. We are not down, we are not out. We endlessly come back, we are America.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring Tour -- Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA

We're kicking off the spring with a New England tour of our film "Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA."  You have four chances to see this documentary in May.  Then it will be in Maryland in June.  

We look forward to seeing you in the audience!  

Read a recent article in the Norwalk Hour at this link.  

May 1, 2016
Mount Holly School
Mount Holly, Vermont
Sponsored by the Mount Holly Town Library and The Book Nook

May 4, 2016
5:30pm Reception 
6:30pm Screening
Norwalk Community College
Norwalk, Connecticut
Special fundraiser for the Westport and Norwalk Historical Societies

May 10, 2016
Warwick Public Library
Warwick, Rhode Island

May 17, 2016
Milford Center for the Arts
Milford, Connecticut
Special screening part of the One City, One Story initiative sponsored by Milford Public Library, CT Humanities and the Milford Arts Council 

June 15, 2016
Old Greenbelt Theatre
Greenbelt, Maryland

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Shooting the New Film

We just concluded a day of shooting for the new film “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age” in Lewiston, Maine. What a joy it was to be back again with our crew: Ramsey, Phil, Tom, Jayson, Lesley, and Andrea…and, of course, my executive producer, Terri, without whom nothing happens. Let’s be clear, no film can be made without competent professionals behind the scenes, and I have been blessed as a director with the best. When I arrive on the set, we are ready to shoot, and each member of my crew is always there with helpful suggestions and a spirit of “we can get the job done.” The director gets the credit, of course (and thankfully the blame), but a good crew is worth its weight in gold…and today as I view the rushes…gold is what we have.

Professor David Lubin

Also a joy for me was to engage in five hours of conversation with Professor David Lubin of Wake Forest University, who is an acknowledged thought leader in the history of art, film, and popular culture. Today as I look at David’s footage and realize the place it will occupy in this new film about the magnificence of the art of America’s Gilded Age, I am reminded that that age was an age of giants…in the arts and in business. David’s comments in this film will be informative and inspiring, and will remind us that in 2016 we live each day of our lives in the cultural remembrance of America’s Renaissance.

It was a good shoot and a good day. I learned something from David Lubin. I learned something from my crew (which I always do). What I’ve learned you’ll see on the screen this December. This film will feature the only known footage of Mark Twain. Unfortunately, an Edison wax cylinder containing a recording of his voice from the same year was lost. Trust me when I tell you…as you watch Mark Twain walk, you cannot help but hear the sound of his voice.

- Michael Maglaras

Getting two cameras ready for the medium and close shots

Director of Photography Phil Cormier
looking at his work