An auction of shovels on Friday, June 5 — symbols of the New Deal work programs of the Great Depression — benefits New Deal preservation projects in New Mexico. In the auction trove are shovel blades adorned with renderings by artists including Paul White, D.Y. Begay, Monica Halford, and Robb Rael, as well as signed shovels by Arlo Guthrie and Al Franken.
Paint Your Shovel is presented by the New Mexico Chapter of National New Deal Preservation Association (NNDPA). The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the best-known of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, was designed to put unemployed young men to work on projects of benefit to the public. Members of the CCC built the National Park Service building on Old Santa Fe Trail and about 30 buildings, as well as furniture and roads, at Bandelier National Monument. Another New Deal initiative, the Public Works Administration, was responsible for the New Mexico Supreme Court Building and six structures for the New Mexico School for the Deaf. The Works Progress Administration built scores of local roads, sewers, parks, schools, and bridges.
Among the other New Deal programs — most of which continue to this day — were Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Historic American Buildings Survey, and the Federal Art Project, which funded the murals by William Penhallow Henderson in the federal courthouse and by Olive Rush in the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library.
Shovels were critical in building roads, water and sewer systems, and public buildings, in addition to planting billions of trees, said Kathryn Flynn, who was instrumental in founding the National New Deal Preservation Association in the late 1990s. “We’re celebrating the hard work of those folks who built the infrastructure we continue to use and take for granted some 80 years later.”
Flynn is the executive director of the NNDPA, headquartered in Santa Fe. It is the organization’s most active chapter, having restored seven Brooks Willis murals from beneath six coats of paint at New Mexico Highlands University; Olive Rush frescoes in the biology building of New Mexico State University, also hidden by paint; and a Randall Davey triptych of polo ponies, which was unearthed in a cavalry unit in Albuquerque and now hangs at the State Capitol.
Nancy Meem Wirth, honorary chairwoman of the Paint Your Shovel auction and daughter of New Deal-era architect John Gaw Meem, gives opening remarks at the auction set for 5 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Center (463 Paseo de Peralta). There will be appetizers and live music from David Gilliland and his band Reckless Abandon. Call 505-473-3985 to reserve tickets ($10 each) or go to www.newdeallegacy.org.