Invited by Abby and Nelson Rockefeller to paint a mural in the entrance to Rockefeller Center, Diego Rivera chose the the theme “Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future.” The artist’s commitment to Communism was well known, but his making Lenin a focal subject was apparently a surprise. Rockefeller asked Rivera to remove Lenin’s likeness, Rivera refused, and down came the mural, hammered to pieces. Today our arts-patronage controversies center more on public than private funding, with questions of “obscenity” or “taste” all the more implicated and complicated. How is public art funded (or not) and what compromises are artists asked to make, implicitly or explicitly, to get support?
Mike Alewitz is a renowned muralist, the Artistic director of the Labor Art and Mural Project, Associate Professor of Art at Central Connecticut State University, and a lifelong activist for social change. In 1999 he was named a Millennium Artist by the White House Millennium Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. His murals on themes of peace and justice can be seen the world over.
Julia Bryan-Wilson, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art History and the Director of the Ph.D. Program, Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She was previously Assistant Professor, Contemporary Art & Visual Culture, at the Rhode Island School of Design. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkleley, and her research focuses on the intersection of art and politics since the 1960’s. A frequent contributor to Artforum, her writing has also appeared in Art Bulletin, Cabinet, Art Journal and many more. In addition to her numerous scholarship contributions Bryan-Wilson has been formally recognized for her excellence in teaching by both UC Irvine and RISD.
Paul Buhle, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer, American Civilization, at Brown University. His personal interest and involvement in social movements for peace, civil rights, environment, and labor since 1960 have shaped much of his research activity. He is a regular contributor to TIKKUN and CNS (an environmental journal) while also writing for a wide variety of publications including, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, and The Village Voice, among others. Recently, along with his students, Buhle began “Underground Rhode Island,” a major project to document the alternative cultures and arts of Rhode Island, including experimental art and music.
Anthony W. Lee, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Chair of Art and Art History, at Mt. Holyoke College, MA. He is an art historian, critic, curator, photographer, and author of Painting of the Left: Diego Rivera, Radical Politics, and San Francisco’s Public Murals. He is the recipient of the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art, given by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art, among many other awards.
Who Killed the Federal Theater?
This relevant documentary was aired on RIPBS as part of Action Speaks’ programming during the Fall 2005 recording season.