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Themes in 20th-Century NYC Cultural History

This course will explore New York City’s history, from the 1910s until the 1970s, through the perspectives of art, literature, and architecture. We will start by examining art of the Progressive Era in the 1910s and ’20s, a period that saw the formation of bohemian Greenwich Village, the Ashcan School of painters, and the 1913 Armory Show. Then we will continue to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s and examine the cultural debates of the time as viewed through selected writings by James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and Langston Hughes and the art of Richmond Barthé, Aaron Douglas, Augusta Savage, and Lois Mailou Jones, among others. During this time, the New York City skyline turned distinctly modernist and vertical as the first skyscrapers were built, but the stock market crash of 1929 and the lean years of the 1930s resulted in a turn toward social realism in art and design. Next, the course will explore three iconic projects from this era: Rockefeller Center, Robert Moses’s early infrastructure projects, and the 1939 World’s Fair—the “World of Tomorrow” that was at odds with the true urban character of the Big Apple. The course will conclude by contrasting two distinct views of New York—that of master builder and power broker Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs’s vision of neighborhood life.

More details

You'll Walk Away with

  • Familiarity with New York City’s role in the modern art movement
  • An understanding of the Harlem Renaissance
  • A new appreciation of important architectural projects in the city

Ideal for

  • Anyone interested in New York history
  • All members of the community—working, retired, and in between
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.