We congratulate UC Berkeley art historian Lauren Kroiz, whose book Cultivating Citizens: The Regional Work of Art in the New Deal Era has been unanimously selected as the overall winner of the 2019 Jon Gjerde Book Prize by the Midwestern History Association.
Lauren Kroiz’s readable, well-organized, beautifully illustrated book successfully achieves what this award seeks to celebrate. Kroiz’s study of the vibrant school of regional modern painted art formulated in the American Midwest during the 1930s and 1940s is a substantive interpretive and visual history of a truly regional topic, interrogating the varying conceptualizations and practices of regionalism in sophisticated new ways. It strikes a critical balance between regional and national history and provides a critical interpretation of the ongoing, contested dialogue about the Midwest’s cultural and political influence in the national experience.—Midwestern Historical Association
Focusing on painters Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry, Kroiz’s book shifts the terms of an ongoing debate over subject matter and style, producing the first study of Regionalist art education programs and concepts of artistic labor
This well-deserved award recognition augments praise from such fronts as the Annals of Iowa Journal: “a history of ideas rather than an analysis of objects…a welcome contribution for its thoughtful and thought-provoking reconsideration of American Regionalism” and Whitney Museum of Art curator, Barbara Haskell: “a model of stylistic clarity and scholarly research.”
Kroiz facilely confronts how these well known artists’ style and subject matter helped to define the Midwest in the 1930s, contributing deeply to our understandings of the New Deal era. This book’s examination of the divide between urban and rural culture and politics is especially timely, referencing the region’s current place in national identity and politics in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.—Midwestern History Association