A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA
January 25 – July 25, 2019
Collection of Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA
The Works Progress Administration was initiated by the US government during the Great Depression of the 1930’s to provide work-relief jobs for Americans. One of its programs, the Federal Art Project, yielded the Index of American Design, which operated between 1935 and 1942 and served to document and preserve our national artistic heritage.
Photographer Noel Vicentini, along with his assistant George Herlick were just two of the many artists sent to document the Shakers during the summer of 1936. His images captured the Shaker villages in our region during a time of decline; the austere settings mostly unpopulated, save for a few aging sisters. The photographs that Vicentini took helped to fulfill the need of a country that was searching for 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 us about Shaker history and culture during a time of great change.
A Promising Venture in its unabridged form includes additional photographs, original artifacts and interpretive materials. It was curated and organized by former Hancock Shaker Village curator, Leslie Herzberg, supported by the museum’s Board of Trustees, and sponsored by Berkshire Money Management, Pittsfield, MA. Framing was provided by Miller Supply Co., Inc., and wall labels by Brilliant Graphics, both of Pittsfield MA. Graphic design by Nicole Marie Philp and a Family Guide by Trish Farrell and Michelle Richard-O’Brien. Special thanks to Christy Cordova, Mario De Pillis, Magda Gabor-Hotchkiss, Ben Garver, Christian Goodwillie, Jerry Grant, Jean Henry, David Martin, Steve Paterwic, Anne Ritchie, Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, Jeanne Solensky, Glendyne Wergland and Dominic Zambito.