It’s been awhile since I’ve posted so it’s time to fill you in on my wanderings (I’ll fill in the hiatus over the next few months). Here goes:
It’s another trip to Washington for Ranger Doug–my fifth and the mission is the same–to make positive changes to our country. As a former NPS Seasonal Ranger (7 years), and six in the US Navy Reserves, I’ve devoted 13 years in public service and if you throw in another 15 years working for public health (Native Corporations here in Alaska), that totals 28 years. I’ve a vested interested in fixing what’s wrong with our country–and there is plenty. This trip was two fold: to make a donation of my private collection of WPA artwork and secondly, to meet with the NPS and the Department of the Interior. I did both.
Acting Director of the NPS is Dan Smith who attended my talk–in fact he sat in the front row. A newly restored WPA triptych (stage behind me) greeted me also.
…..and later signed the paperwork to receive my collection. Tracy Baetz, DOI Museum Curator is to my left. Here’s the math: During my 25 years of searching for WPA prints, I’ve located a total of 42 survivors out of about 1400 initially printed (100 copies x 14 designs). I have purchased six of these and also secured two more through legal action that were taken from the artist’s estate by an impersonator of me–you can read more about this chase here. The last auction of a poster was in 2005 for $9000! Today, with these prints on the front page, they are worth many more times that figure. Some are only copies–and they belong back in the public domain.
In the first slide, you can see 11 of the 14 that were printed–all in one room–behind us here! Two still missing are Wind Cave and Great Smoky Mountains (I have black & white photos of them which I used for the reconstruction). It gets more confusing. My original Teton print I donated to that park, but they chose to keep another Teton print that I later purchased, and pass the one I found in the park burn pile on to the Library of Congress–it’s here in this room. Also on display here are Glacier (one of two known), Mt. Rainier (one of six), Yellowstone Geyser (3) and Falls (only known copy). Fort Marion, Lassen and Grand Canyon were loaned to this ceremony by the Library of Congress which came out of a discovery in LA. The LOC bought five of nine at public auction, (I bought two–Glacier and the second Grand Teton). Petrified Forest came from that park and is also the only known copy; (thanks PeFo and Matt Smith!). Bandelier turned up in my art files when I forgot to return it, so I arranged to keep it for the 2014 exhibition and then donate it on to the NPS archives. Pictured above are representatives from the NPS/DOI, Library of Congress and Smithsonian (who have had two on exhibit over the past two years)–thank you all for your help. Finally–nearly all are in one room!
As I was checking through security I got a call from the Secretary’s office. When Museum Registrar Jason Jurgena (here, on the right) was freshening up the artwork in his office, SOI Zinke elected to keep my posters in the entrance hallway. Jason explained that I was coming to town and giving a talk on the history of these so he called me up for a fireside chat (without the fire). Secretary Zinke should be in the movies (and not at Interior, but that’s to be discussed over a beer in a Montana bar). As a former Navy Seal, he definitely has that military bearing so we chatted about our military careers among other things.
I found him to be somewhat defensive about issues that the news has focused upon: the $130,000 door replacement, raising park entrance fees, etc. I reminded him that the people already own these parks and raising the entrance fees won’t wash. I also reminded him that the recently launched Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier cost the American taxpayers $13.5B (the amount our NPS is in financial arrears) and GRF and his daughter, Susan, were park rangers! Priorities–to which he agreed…. Number two in command, Mike Argo, attends this discussion with us and gives me his Navy Seal pin as a gift (thanks Mike–I’ll buy the first round of beer!). Zinke hands me a challenge medal:
We pledged to meet in a Montana bar over a Snake River Lager (see label here) which I aided in designing.
The wall of fame–and the Glacier WPA poster art. Military, and public lands crusader buddies….to be continued………