Historian Kathy Flynn speaks Thursday at the Bloomfield Cultural Center

Kathy Flynn says Depression-era projects are all around us

FARMINGTON — It may have been nearly 100 years since the various programs associated with the New Deal reached their peak, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant to historian and Santa Fe resident Kathy Flynn.

Flynn, a former New Mexico undersecretary of state who serves as executive director of the National New Deal Preservation Association, will present later this week on the Depression-era centerpiece of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Flynn’s organization has compiled a list of surviving New Deal-related projects throughout New Mexico, including San Juan County, and she’ll talk about efforts to preserve these features and why they deserve to be seen. recalled.

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Reminders of the New Deal are all around us, Flynn said, from sidewalks emblazoned with the Works Progress Administration emblem, to infrastructure in national parks, to public art projects that adorn post offices and other buildings. public. More important than the projects themselves, she said, are what they represent — a lifeline that has been thrown by the government to millions of unemployed Americans through programs such as the WPA. , the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration, the National Youth Administration, the Rural Electricity Administration, and the Farm Safety Administration.

Flynn argues that the New Deal did nothing less than save the lives of millions of Americans – both the people who were employed by these programs and the family members they supported. The legacy of these programs remains evident today, she said, linking the past to the present, as the COVID-19 pandemic presented another great challenge to the economy and the community. American company.

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“Now we can talk about (the New Deal) saying, ‘Look at the situations we’re in today that have similarities to this one,'” Flynn said. home and to share the idea that it is very precious to us today.”

Flynn will spend a good portion of his presentation talking about projects that were completed in San Juan County in the 1930s under New Deal programs, including several schools, government buildings, libraries and museums. Additionally, New Deal program workers have completed much of the excavation and restoration work at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, she said. .

Flynn said educating the public about the impact of the New Deal and its surviving projects is the top priority of his nonprofit, which is based in Santa Fe but serves a national audience. She travels around New Mexico talking about the New Deal — what it was, when it happened, how it happened, and what’s left of it — usually at the request of county historical societies, a she declared.

She acknowledged that her presentations are usually delivered to older people who can retain a personal connection to that era.

“If a person has white hair, they usually know what I’m talking about,” she said with a laugh.

Flynn also sees it as his mission to generate support to preserve and restore as many of these remnants of New Deal programs as possible. Many of these projects have fallen into disrepair in the decades since and will crumble or disappear unaided, she said.

“We spent $600,000 to preserve, restore and conserve public art across the state,” she said.

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One project she and her organization are working on is a fountain in the courtyard of the old Carrie Tingley Hospital in Truth or Consequences, Flynn said. The complex is being converted into a center for veterans, and Flynn said the fountain – which was sculpted out of concrete by Santa Fe artist Eugenie Shonnard in 1937 – is one of the most New Deal crafts that survive in New Mexico.

“There are four turtles, four ducks and four frog heads around the fountain,” she said.

The fountain hasn’t worked for many years, Flynn said, but she and supporters of her organization hope to restore it and get it working again with help from the state, which has set aside funds to restore the surrounding complex.

Flynn’s presentation will take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 10 at the Bloomfield Cultural Center, 333 S. 1st St. Admission is free. The event will be held in conjunction with a photography exhibit, “Art of the New Deal,” which remains on display at the Bloomfield Cultural Center through April 30. Call 505-632-2840.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription.

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