This is a story of a young, New Deal artist with a romantic name, Reima Ratti. Born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1914, he was like so many young boys of his generation. Young men who came of age during the jobless years of the Great Depression. Ratti joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a regular enrollee to help himself and his family. As a trained, but untried artist, he brought along his sketchpad, pencils and brushes. What transpired, during his CCC artist days and beyond, would set him on a path to history.
“I have heard much about the CCC artists and the fine work they have done. I would very much like to be a CCC artist myself.” Reima Ratti 1936
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.
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.
“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.
“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.