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January 29, 2008

Recent Acquisition: WPA Art from Ah-Gwah-Ching

Filed under: What's New — Lori Williamson @ 4:24 pm


Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another
land, but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples.
                                                                     Franklin Roosevelt

Late in 2007, the Minnesota Historical Society became the proud steward of a large collection of art from the Works Project Administration (WPA). The WPA (1935 – 1942) was part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program to put unemployed citizens back to work. In Minnesota, this program employed numerous artists crst-paul-small.JPGeating one of the most prolific and exciting periods in the history of art making in the state.

For nearly 70 years, this collection had remained on location at Ah-Gwah-Ching (meaning “out of doors” in Ojibwe), a state-run medical facility in Walker, MN. Originally opened as a tuberculosis hospital in 1907, the institution is scheduled to close early in 2008. The employees of the hospital and residents of Walker have taken great pride in (and great care of) this collection.

Originally commissioned by the federal government–which still claims title to all WPA material–the Historical Society has been identified as a facility best able to preserve, research and interpret the work from this important era. In an agreement with the General Services Administration, MHS will hold this work in perpetuity.

The Ah-Gwah-Ching archive, as it is now called, consists of more the 160 items including prints, watercolors, oils and woodcarvings by such artists as Bob Brown, Henry Bukowski, Reathel Keppen, Dorothea Lau, Alexander Oja and Bennet Swanson. A selection of this archive will be on view at the James J. Hill House beginning in May 2008.

From top to bottom:
Communications (1936) by Ingrid Edwards
Train Yard (1936) by Sverre Hanssen
Nite in North St. Paul (1941) by Alexander Oja

Brian Szott, Curator of Art

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2 Responses to “Recent Acquisition: WPA Art from Ah-Gwah-Ching”

  1. Ingrid E. Says:

    I am curious about the painting by Ingrid Edwards. Where is it located now and would it be possible to get a copy?

  2. Vicki Ross-Rhoades Says:

    I know this is a very old post, but as a short-term employee of Ah Gwah Ching about 10 years ago, I am SO glad to see that these were preserved. What amazing buildings those were – and so well cared for. It broke my heart to think any of this may have been lost when it was torn down in the past few years. Thank you for preserving it!

An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs