The New York State Museum will open a new exhibition featuring Shaker photographs on February 14, 2015. A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA features the photography of Noel Vicentini and documents Shaker sites, architecture, craft and people.
On display in Photography Gallery through December 31, 2015, the exhibition is organized by Hancock Shaker Village and features more than 100 photographs. This exhibition complements the State Museum’s 7,000 square-foot exhibition, The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries, which explores the history and culture of the Shakers.
“We are pleased to be a venue for this impressive collection of Shaker WPA photographs,” said State Museum Director Mark Schaming. “Vicentini’s photographs capture the definitive aesthetic of the Shakers and are a great companion to the State Museum’s major Shaker exhibition now on view. The Board of Regents and the State Museum are grateful to Hancock Shaker Village for organizing this remarkable exhibition.”
During the Great Depression, the United States Government established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), including the Federal Art Project, to put Americans back to work. The Index of American Design, a division of the Federal Art Project, grew out of a desire to document and preserve the nation’s artistic heritage. Shaker design fit perfectly into this program, a truly American aesthetic worthy of recognition.
Noel A. Vicentini and his assistant, George Herlick, were two of many artists sent to document the Shakers during the summer of 1936. His images captured the Shaker villages during a time of decline. Vicentini’s photographs helped to inspire a national design aesthetic. His images stand on their own as works of fine art, beautiful scenes of form and design, yet they also tell a story about Shaker history and culture during a time of great change.