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Santa Clara University's de Saisset Museum Explores Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present in Four Compelling Exhibitions

Monday, Jul. 18, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 18, 2011—This summer the de Saisset Museum opens four thought-provoking exhibitions that examine how artists have responded to homelessness since the 1930s. These exhibitions, which explore a range of historical perspectives and cultural histories, open Friday, July 29. 

Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present compares artistic interpretations of homelessness from the Dust Bowl migrants of the 1930s to the stigmatized street people of today—with a focus on California. Featuring works by 30 artists working over the last 75 years, this traveling show documents the tragedy of homelessness and the governments’ role in the crisis. Through painting, printmaking, photography, and mixed media, Depression-era and contemporary artists offer glimpses of life on the street and call attention to the many similarities between the eras.
During the Great Depression artists responded to the large numbers of poor and displaced people, often with the support of New Deal programs such as the Works Progress Administration, which funded their efforts to document what was happening across the country. Following World War II, many artists shifted their energies elsewhere. However, with the rise of homelessness in the modern era, artists once again focused their attention on this important issue.
Curator Art Hazelwood explains that “some of the artists in this exhibition personally experienced homelessness and poverty, some worked directly with organizations to combat poverty, but all of them felt that art could be used to focus attention on homelessness. The idea that art can have a function in society by engaging in a struggle for a better world, and that everyone should take an interest in the well-being of less fortunate people are the twin beliefs of the artists in this show.”
Hobos to Street People is an Exhibit Envoy traveling exhibition funded by the James Irvine Foundation, LEF Foundation, and Fleishhacker Foundation. Exhibit Envoy is a network of professionally operated museums and cultural organizations that collaborates to create and tour smaller, affordable, high quality exhibitions that advance civic engagement and human understanding.
Between Struggle and Hope: Envisioning a Democratic Art in the 1930s, an exhibition that is also curated by Art Hazelwood, explores the new and dynamic relationship between artists and the government that resulted from the Roosevelt Administration’s response to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. Drawn largely from the collection of the de Saisset Museum, the photographs, prints, and mural studies in this exhibition speak to both the struggles and the hopes of the people. They call attention to the hardships of the times, but they also remind us of why the New Deal policies were implemented and why they mattered.
A third exhibition curated by Hazelwood, brings together photographs taken by two contemporary artists who work in the tradition of Depression-era photographers such as Dorothea Lange. In This Camera Fights Fascism: The Photographs of David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez both artists responded to images by Lange and selected photographs from their own work that draw close connections between the 1930s and today.
Artists featured in these shows include Dorothea Lange, Rockwell Kent, Victor Arnautoff, and Herman Volz, as well as contemporary artists Sandow Birk, David Bacon, Francisco Dominguez, and Christine Hanlon.
The Changing Face of Homelessness: A Collection of Portraits by Santa Clara University Photography Students features works by more than 20 SCU students who have enrolled in Renee Billingslea’s Exploring Society Through Photography course since 2006. Taken with a sense of compassion and sensitivity, the photographs depict individuals and families experiencing extreme poverty in the local community and aim to break down stereotypes and provoke awareness.
In conjunction with these exhibitions, which open to the public on Friday, July 29, a free celebratory reception is planned for Thursday, Sept. 22. The de Saisset Museum will also host additional programs in connection with these shows including a panel discussion with Paul Boden, Gray Brechin, and Art Hazelwood on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.; Family Day on Saturday, Oct. 8, 1-4 p.m.; and College Night on Thursday, Nov. 3, 7-11 p.m. These programs are free and open to the public. For more information on upcoming exhibitions and programs, visit
Media Contact:
Lindsey Kouvaris | de Saisset Museum | 408-554-4528 | 408-554-7840 fax |
About the de Saisset Museum
The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University is the South Bay’s free museum of art and history. The museum was founded adjacent to the Mission Santa Clara de Asís on the Santa Clara University campus in 1955 and is one of only three museums in the South Bay accredited by the American Association of Museums. The de Saisset Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets objects of art and history for the educational and cultural enrichment of all people. The museum achieves its mission through an active program of exhibitions, collections, education programs, and publications.
About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University is a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley. Santa Clara offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s degrees in a number of professional fields, law degrees, and engineering and theology doctorates. Distinguished by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, Santa Clara educates leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion grounded in faith-inspired values. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest operating institution of higher education. For more information, see


Tags: 2012, de Saisset Museum, exhibit, fall, homelessness

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