Frederik Meijer Honors College hosts seminar series event that explore unheard voices


GVL / Aida Dennis

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

The Frederik Meijer Honors College (FMHC) hosted its second-to-last seminar for the winter 2023 semester last Thursday.

Thursday’s honoree, Ellen Adams, is an associate professor of art history within the FMHC. Her courses within the program include “Dangerous Ideas,” “Art and Money” and “Modern Art and Modernity.” 

Over the last few months, four different FMHC faculty members have given presentations in their areas of expertise. The talks were designed to connect with the faculty member’s area of scholarship, share new projects or both. 

Invited faculty members each delivered an informal 30 to 45-minute presentation with an opportunity for discussion at the end of each seminar. 

Currently, Adams is writing a book about women artists who worked within the Works Project Administration following the New Deal which led her to the topic of her seminar, “Cultural Patronage in the New Deal: Georgette Seabrooke and the Harlem Hospital Murals.” 

Adams said several years ago she was teaching a course on feminist art history and had sent a student to find a book on women artists who worked in the WPA. Much to Adams’ and her student’s surprise, they couldn’t find one. 

“I started to think about it and ways to ask interesting questions about why women were not included when it (WPA projects) started,” Adams said.

The topic of Adams’ talk surrounded a mural entitled “Recreation in Harlem” created by WPA artist Georgette Seabrooke in 1937. At the time of creation, Seabrooke and other artists’ projects were a subject of controversy in the Harlem community. The mural was set to be created by minority artists and the art itself depicted strong African American themes.  

Originally, the project wasn’t approved by the Hospital Superintendent. However, the Harlem Artists Guild and Artists Union were able to advocate for the project, leading to its initiation and completion. 

Over the years, environmental conditions have led to damage to the mural. In 2004, Harlem Hospital decided that the work would be removed, restored and reinstalled in the new Harlem Hospital Center Mural Pavilion, where the project remains underway today. 

“The mural itself has not been a part of a whole lot of scholarship and there might be some interesting reasons for that,” Adams said. “When we think about the New Deal, we think about those kinds of programs, like the post office and journalism, so this is kind of an interesting niche to get into.” 

The final FMHC Seminar Series event of the semester will be held on April 6 from 4-6 p.m. The event will feature FMHC Associate Professor Jeremiah Cataldo who will deliver a presentation titled, “Sex and Bibles: Between the Covers.”