benjamin abramowitz art

The Rediscovery Project
Susan A. Rosenbaum Read the
Project Director

"The repositories of knowledge are the memories of old people. If you don’t have old people to remember what happened 50 years ago, you’ve lost a lot of experience for that society,” --Jared Diamond, 72, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Professor UCLA

The Rediscovery Project is a landmark new initiative developed by arts advisor, former museum executive and arts educator Susan A. Rosenbaum, focusing on cultural history, audience engagement and featuring art works of the "American Scene," also known as "the people's art." Artists glorified landscapes, elevated stations, subways, butcher shops, 14th Street -- they made art out of the fullness of their lives and experiences.

Using historic works of art created during the 1930's and 1940's, the Project's priority is to engage an audience relatively neglected and untapped – elderly men and women who all too often fall through the cracks of our society and social communication. Our ultimate aim is to set the stage for sharing their extraordinary wealth of experience and memories. Overall, the project will educate, entertain, and stimulate a rediscovery of America's cultural heritage among intergenerational audiences. It is developed in partnership with curators, scholars, educators and historians.

The Depression years leading into the New Deal period in American history were virtually unlike any other. The Federal Government under Franklin Delano Roosevelt promoted culture --- and funded it. Edward Bruce, who directed the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts for a decade between 1934 and 1944, stated: "A great republic has accepted the artist as a useful member of society and his work a valuable asset of the state."

The Rediscovery Project will feature diverse cultural and historical programs including exhibitions in multiple settings in Washington, DC. Programs will be designed for venues ranging from adult day centers and nursing homes, to museum and gallery spaces. In addition to the senior and elderly audiences, we will engage high school and college age students, who often have little or no knowledge of the history, times and culture of that period. Programming will target stimulating dialogue, enhancing lifelong learning and developing new insights into familiar subjects using innovative formats and non-traditional ways of engaging audiences through diverse programming and speakers.

The project is planned as multi-year, and will be launched in 2012 as a demonstration. The project's objectives are:

  1. to increase awareness of impact of the Depression and the eve of World War II in Washington, DC and the nation
  2. to celebrate experiences through dialogue with elders in the community
  3. to provide perspective on current economic threats
  4. to enlighten audiences on the artistic and social culture of the period
  5. to explore connections between works of art and human experiences
  6. to confirm the design for future programs to be as inclusive as possible

The Project offers all venues a minimum of one to two hour programs, with an exhibition of prints and drawings, conducted in most settings by our scholars. Program activities will include informal guided walk throughs, lectures, formal symposia, films, music of the period, and small individual presentations. We are seeking funding that can ensure that all programs have printed and electronic (CD and DVD format) educational guides covering history, culture and arts from the era. Videotaped programs and educational materials will also be available online.

Featured artwork will be historic and nationally recognized prints and drawings, as well as paintings, created by the late Washington, DC artist Benjamin "Hoffman" Abramowitz. Many of the works to be featured were commissioned by the New York Works Projects Administration from 1937-1940. All works exhibited by The Rediscovery Project are original and express the "American Scene," of the Great Depression and the early years of World War II. The WPA artwork is gentle and playful, as required by the government, focusing on family, children, urban scenes, while other works include social commentary, darker and more passionate. The artist lived and exhibited in DC arts community from 1940 on, and the work reflects Washington, DC history as well.

The Rediscovery Project has received a generous seed grant from the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation as well as donations from private individuals. It is seeking additional funding during the coming months.