Hallie Ford Museum explores Great Depression through virtual exhibit

“The Market” by Virginia Darce, one of the paintings on display in the Hallie Ford Museum of Art until March 27. (Courtesy/ Hallie Ford Museum)

As America grapples with a pandemic-induced downturn, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art is looking back nearly 100 years to a similar moment of hardship.

While the museum has been closed since November because of Covid restrictions, it’s offering virtual tours of its latest exhibit, “Forgotten Stories: Northwest Public Art in the 1930s.” 

The exhibit, which explores artwork created in the Northwest during the Great Depression, was initially set to open on Nov. 28, but the museum closed as a result of Gov. Kate Brown’s two-week freeze before the opening.

Now, those who want to view the art can click a link to be guided through the gallery space.

The exhibit features paintings of pioneers, railroad workers and wheat fields.  

From 1933 to 1943 the federal government sponsored artworks through then President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

John Olbrantz, Maribeth Collins director, said in November he was eagerly looking forward to inviting the public to see the images of hardship and uncertainty.  

“With millions of people unemployed the government’s New Deal Federal Art Projects supplied work to over 600 artists in the Pacific Northwest and resulted in a vast array of public art which can be found from schools, to post offices, all the way to Mt. Hood’s famed Timberline Lodge,” he said in a prepared statement. “These programs from the past provided much needed hope and optimism for people and could provide valuable inspiration to our current COVID-19 era.”  

On Tuesday, the museum said it was reviewing recent revision’s to state Covid guidelines that allow for more indoor activities and would have more information about reopening next week.  

The digital exhibit and programming was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES Act funding. 

In addition to the exhibit, Salem artist and film historian Robert Bibler curated a four-part self-guided film series that helps contextualize the artwork.

The films include the iconic “Grapes of Wrath,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Our Daily Bread,” and “I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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