The Art of Hope: WPA Murals in Florida

Presented By Mallory O’Connor

Florida’s New Deal murals are the visual embodiment of a crucial period in America’s history—a period of economic uncertainty and disruptive social change.  They stand as a response to conditions faced by a struggling nation and their ultimate importance lies in the stories they tell and the images they capture—images that extolled the virtues of hard work, devotion to family and community, and optimism in the face of hardship. Now, more than 70 years later, these murals remain as a legacy of a social revolution that was America’s response to the specter of economic disaster. This lecture explores the remaining WPA murals and what they represented then and now.

O’Connor explores the connection between the fabled Fountain of Youth and the development of Florida as a land where dreams come true and people can reinvent themselves. Works of art—both traditional and popular—provide the framework for an intriguing look into the heart of Florida’s self-image.

Mallory O’Connor is a Professor Emerita of Art History at Santa Fe College. She has been involved in numerous exhibits on Florida, including: Florida Before Columbus, Opening the Door to a New World: Mark Catesby in La Florida, and The Great Alachua Savanna: A Visual History of Paynes Prairie. Currently, she is working on a book and an art exhibition focusing on the Fountain of Youth in Florida history, mythology and art.

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Mallory O’Connor

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