Frank Cassara – Last of the New Deal CCC artists

During the Great Depression persistence and talent earned Frank Cassara a young, untried artist his place among the greats in New Deal art history.

The last of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) artists, Frank (Francesco) Cassara, born March 13, 1913 in Partinico, Sicily died January 13, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Michigan – two months shy of his 104th birthday.

Frank Cassara CCC artist 2010
During a September 2010 interview Frank Cassara, a former CCC and WPA artist, graciously shared recollections of his New Deal assignments. ©2010 Kathleen Duxbury.    All Rights Reserved

In the fall of 2010, Frank Cassara and his daughter, Francisca, graciously welcomed me into his Michigan home and studio. While giving me directions they voiced concerns with traffic I might encounter en-route; a football game was scheduled at the University of Michigan. If there was traffic I never noticed, but do recall the Spartans were not the only winners that weekend.

Frank was then 97 years old, in a wheelchair, soft spoken and was quietly reflective as I questioned him about his time and special circumstances as an Artist/Enrollee with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Illinois during the Great Depression years.

Initially we sat in the living room of his home. Frank watched as I arranged my papers, camera equipment and hooked up the audio recorder all while explaining the who and whys of our New Deal research, extensive travels and how we search for CCC art, artists and stories.

Frank apologized for what he believed would be unproductive time and wasted travel for me; explaining it had been years (authors note – 75+ years) since his assignment to a CCC camp and he really couldn’t remember much.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect as I handed Frank copies of CCC camp photographs and letters. The documents were dated 1934 – 1935, years when Frank was 21 years of age, living in Detroit, Michigan and desperate for work. He was writing or approaching anyone or any agency he thought might be of assistance, repeatedly.

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Federal Art Project (FAP) Calendar Revitilized

In 1939 the Federal Art Program Poster Division utilized a revolutionary printing process to produce a historic calendar. 78 years later the calendar dates are the same. Presenting a timely opportunity to enjoy a years worth of New Deal American art once again.

1939 Federal Art Project Calendar

National New Deal Preservation Association 2017 calendar - repurposed 1939 WPA Federal Art Project calendar originally created in 1938 by the NYC Poster Division of the FAP
National New Deal Preservation Association 2017 calendar -A revitalized version of the original 1939 WPA Federal Art Project (FAP) calendar. Featuring the work of eight artists employed by the NYC Poster Division.

At times New Deal research will go off in unexpected directions such as the Federal Art Project (FAP) administered by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Because several CCC artists would later find employment with other government art programs searching selected records from these federal agencies can provide a better understanding of an artists journey.

On a recent trip to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland multiple boxes were requested from WPA Record Group 69. Midway through a container labeled FAP State Offices New York was a folder marked 1939 FAP. Inside this archival envelope were original poster prints from a FAP calendar for 1939; considering their age the paper stock was still firm and the images remained bold and impressive.

A revolutionary new silk screened process, designed by a WPA artist, was used for these poster prints. Enabling mass production with results considered, in the 1930’s, to be technically superior and artistically pleasing.

A quick check revealed that the calendar dates for 1939 are the same for 2017. How fortunate to find these vintage 78 year-old federal art prints and how fitting to revitalize these images for another years use.

2017 NNDPA FAP Calendar

Now available is a vibrant and historic 2017 calendar, 8.5″ x 11″ full color, 14 month wall calendar offered exclusively through the National New Deal Preservation Association (NNDPA) website.

“A perfect gift for the history, preservation and art buffs in your world. After all, New Deal art is uniquely American.” NNDPA

National New Deal Preservation Association 2017 calendar - repurposed 1939 WPA Federal Art Project calendar originally created in 1938 by the NYC Poster Division of the FAP
National New Deal Preservation Association 2017 calendar

But, the story doesn’t end there.

Working with these vintage images created a flood of questions . . .
What was the FAP? Who were these eight artists? What is the story behind this calendar – for whom, why and how was it printed?

1939 was a year that changed world history.

The publication of the original 1939 WPA/FAP calendar was done in a spirit of a good will. Unfortunately, this well meaning gesture was ill-timed and ill-fated.

But that’s another story . . .

Researching CCC Art

Between 1934-1937 the CCC art program encompassed the lower forty-eight states. Researching this quiet part of American art history requires extensive travel and investigation. Using a vintage motor home allows the best access to sleuthing within the parks, repositories and other collections that house this New Deal history. Often crucial information is found by going to the source; clues that lead to the art, artists and stories of the CCC.

Traveling History's Trail Together Autumn Years magazine 2015

We are appreciative for this article which draws attention to a quiet part of America art history and our efforts in researching the Civilian Conservation Corps and the New Deal CCC art program.

“Traveling History’s Trail . . . Together” written by Patricia Farrell Delhauser along with the design and layout by Heidi Gross appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of Autumn Years magazine.

The complete article with images may be viewed on my website  KathleenDuxbury.com  along with information on the first in a series that highlights the CCC artists and the CCC art program.

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CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps – Marshall Davis

 CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps – Marshall Davis”

Marshall Davis was a young, untried and struggling artist caught up in a dramatic and timely turn of events. It was the Great Depression, his only option for a job was to enroll in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a laborer.  Davis wisely brought along his sketchpad and pencils and embarked on a artistic journey that would change his life and our understanding of the three C’s.  Through the discovery of his masterful and whimsical illustrations, letters and records we are provided with a true visual of the real CCC. The CCC was the first and most successful of the New Deal work programs; a massive movement that is recognized as the greatest conservation effort in US history.

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Available direct from the author Kathleen Duxbury at www.kathleenduxbury.com; at the New Deal Store   
FDR Presidential Library
bookstore, Hyde Park, New York and online
 Amazon

 “I have a pile of picture material – and thanks to those managing the Art Project and Mr. Hoyt of Happy Days – the time is drawing near when I will have nothing to do but sleep – eat – and draw . . . I assure you I will do my best with every opportunity.”   (Clarence) Marshall Davis

One can easily sense the excitement felt by junior Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollee Marshall Davis on March 24, 1934 as he put pen to paper and wrote those words to Edward Rowan in the Treasury Department  Washington, D.C.  Marshall Davis was about to join the first of the government art programs, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP).
his assignment was to make a pictorial record of the CCC, a program his knew well.