During the 1930s and 1940s, painters Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry formed a loose alliance as American Regionalists. Some lauded their depictions of the rural landscape and hardworking inhabitants of America’s midwestern heartland; others deemed their painting dangerous, regarding its easily understood realism as a vehicle for jingoism and even fascism. Cultivating Citizens focuses on Regionalists and their critics as they worked with and against universities, museums, and the burgeoning field of sociology. Lauren Kroiz 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.
Lauren Kroiz is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Creative Composites: Modernism, Race, and the Stieglitz Circle.
"A model of stylistic clarity and scholarly research, Lauren Kroiz's book is an in-depth, riveting analysis of the intersection of art, pedagogy, and the careers of Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood. The new information and fresh perspectives she provides make her book a required text for any serious student of Regionalism."— Barbara Haskell, curator, Whitney Museum of American Art
"How do we teach citizenship in America, and what role does art play? In her persuasive reevaluation of Regionalism, Kroiz considers how pedagogy, a fundamental yet largely overlooked dynamic in modern cultural production and consumption, challenged views of art as elite indulgence and fostered, instead, its democratization. Original, timely, and highly recommended."—Erika Doss, Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame
"By expanding art historical interpretation to include what is often dismissed as culturally irrelevant, Kroiz represents a new generation of scholars avidly exploring the dark and missing mass of the art world and in the process developing new and necessary research tools, while generating a string of critical methodological questions along the way."—Gregory Sholette, artist, activist, and author of Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism
"As we reckon with the meaning of citizenship in a fraught national landscape, Kroiz reminds us of the artists and artistic leaders who once built bridges amongst and within political cultures of all kinds. Her focus on artistic 'regionalism' provides a counterpoint to the bicoastal frames of a contemporary US art world. And Kroiz's focus on 'teaching' reminds us of the long-term importance of this mode of artistic practice, long before the so-called pedagogical turn. The histories shared in Cultivating Citizens could not be more timely. Read, remember, and work toward repair."—Shannon Jackson, author of Social Works and coeditor of Public Servants