VIOLINS AND SHOVELS by Milton Meltzer
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VIOLINS AND SHOVELS

The WPA Arts Projects
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The WPA gave Milton Meltzer his first writing job (in the Theater Project at a life-saving $23.86 a week), so this is an understandably glowing, nostalgic recollection of that agency's accomplishments. While not unmindful of the limitations of government-supported art and the problems of censorship, Meltzer recalls the tremendous strides made by young professionals given the chance to work full-time at their specialties; the program's role in helping talents like Jackson Pollack to survive; and any number of commercially unfeasible projects--the American Guide Series, the Index of American Design, retraining vaudevillians for children's theater--which flourished under its auspices. The defiant, underground opening of The Cradle Will Rock, the company of employees like Richard Wright and Nelson Algren, the vision of administrators like Hallie Flanagan who hoped to build a national theater, are heady memories; they're also a part of our cultural heritage that this compact personalized account will make available to yet another generation. That the worst economic crisis of our nation's history might be remembered as a relative boon to artists (giving them a freedom for which many paid dearly during the McCarthy era) is a multi-layered irony which Meltzer reinforces here with closing statistics on the "starvation diet" of the arts today.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1976




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