“Why should we use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” – Brenda Ueland
This rooftop view of Charleston, the view that I also love in Paris, is a photograph from the grand collection of the Library of Congress, a treasure trove of visual history, available to us online. It was taken in Charleston, from the roof of No. 20 East Battery, looking Southwest, by a photographer named C.O. Greene in 1940. During the depression of the 1930’s, swarms of photographers, writers and muralists were employed, by the Works Progress Administration, to document buildings and cemeteries and communities. The WPA was the largest New Deal Agency and it employed millions of people. Many of our cemetery records were recorded then, and the records are genealogical jewels for those of us who love studying family history. One of my favorite little books produced by the WPA is called The Ocean Highway, New Brunswick, New Jersey to Jacksonville, Florida; American Guide Series, produced by Modern Age Books, 1938. It is the 1,000 mile journey of US 1 and the details about mostly the rural areas South Carolina are detailed and mapped carefully with mile markers. The unknown authors travel to Pocotaligo, where the Reverend William Hutson first preached at the Stony Creek Independent, later, Presbyterian, Church, and they write about Edisto Island, and Peter’s Point Plantation and a dynamic small Gullah church off Steamboat Landing Road, called “The Sanctify”.
I like to think we could do some of this again, that we, as Americans could reprioritise. Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind, seems to think that the Master of Fine Arts degree is the new MBA. Tough times demand creative solutions. The challenging economic situation we are living through now, may, l like to think, lead us back to the arts. Arts exist to help us heal, to make us dance, to nurture our spirits. If there ever was a time when we all needed generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate people, it is now.