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New York City in the '30s

Experience the culture of New York City in the 1930s, when Mayor La Guardia won the support of the federal government under Franklin D. Roosevelt for the stimulus spending policies that would come to be known as the New Deal. During these “lean years,” NYC civic culture turned more and more toward social realism, finding expression in WPA mural art and in provocative Federal Theatre projects. We will look closely at two of the most distinctive Depression-era projects: the creation of Rockefeller Center and the story of Diego Rivera’s ill-fated mural, Man at the Crossroads; and the staging of Marc Blitzstein’s agitprop musical, The Cradle Will Rock. At the other end of the cultural spectrum, this was also an era of blatant escapism as found in the musical extravaganzas of Busby Berkeley and the Ziegfeld Follies—although sometimes even there, shades of social concern emerge when least expected. The period culminates with the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and its vision of “The World of Tomorrow”—ironically, a vision very much at odds with the urban character of New York City.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • Knowledge of the culture of Depression-era NYC
  • Familiarity with the tension between political and escapist art of the Depression

Ideal for

  • History buffs
  • 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.