Posts Tagged ‘ordinary people’

Refugees continue to be on my mind, and I can’t resist any story about ordinary, kind-hearted people who recognize that no one would leave their homeland on a dangerous, uncertain journey unless they were desperate.

Sam Warner at Huck magazine (“Huck celebrates independent culture – people and movements that paddle against the flow”) has examples of kindness from the past year.

“Where European governments have largely failed, individuals across the continent have stepped up to help the plight of  refugees in any way they can. Here are some of them.

“Two Dresden writers showed solidarity with the refugees by painting ‘welcome’ in Arabic on the side of a train carriage in the city. …

“As migrants arrived in Munich, they were greeted with applause from Germans waiting for them at the train station. On top of that, they were given food, water and toys for the children and people also held up signs that said ‘welcome.’

“While refugees were stuck in Hungary, a convoy of Austrian volunteers called ‘refugeeconvoy’ crossed the border to distribute aid and help refugees cross through Western Europe.  …

“Numerous Icelandic residents have joined an initiative to help the refugees, started by writer Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir. Her Facebook page Syria is Calling already has over 17,000 likes, using the slogan: ‘Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.’

“It encourages the government to take in more refugees, whose numbers have been officially capped at 50. It has also inspired American initiative Open Homes, Open Hearts US – with Syrian refugees, which aims to raise awareness across the Atlantic and lobby the US government to accept more refugees. …

“Outside Budapest’s main railway station, a group of volunteers set up a projector and screened Tom and Jerry for refugee children to watch. They had been barricaded outside the station by authorities for 48 hours … .

“Refugee Phrasebook is an online collaborative project that aims to give important vocabulary for orientation that can be distributed to refugees. Its collaborative aspect means that experts can improve and update the material as it goes along. The project has phrases in 28 languages.”

More here.

Photo: Thomas Rassloff on Flickr

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Art: Thomas Hart Benton
One of my favorites: Spring on the Missouri, 1945, oil and tempera on Masonite panel. On loan to the PEM from the North Carolina Museum of Art.



When I was moonlighting as a theater reviewer, I always liked to “sleep on it” before writing anything, just in case my unconscious had anything useful to add.

Well, I slept on the big Thomas Hart Benton exhibition I saw yesterday, and sleep confirmed that certain lesser-known aspects of his work are troubling. I still adore the wavy energy of his landscapes, people, horses, trains, clouds, smoke, even fence posts. I still love the way Benton honors ordinary people and ordinary jobs and the way his paintings comment on social injustice.

But I really did not like the gruesome murals of invading armies that Benton created to jolt overly complacent Americans after Pearl Harbor. There was something cheap about them.

Of course, there was a lot more than that to the exhibition “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood,” a sweeping retrospective of most of the artist’s work: murals showing Indians or slaves being mistreated, paintings of the the vibrant life of the West and Midwest, detailed depictions of the inner workings of Hollywood sets, designs for the Henry Fonda version of The Grapes of Wrath, illustrations for an edition of Huckleberry Finn, posters touting the contributions of African Americans to the war effort.

The day before, I had been hearing about Irving Berlin’s dedication to the war effort, and I think these two different artists conveyed, more viscerally than I had previously experienced, the underlying fear prevalent at that time. Since I grew up after it was all over, I probably unconsciously assumed that everyone always knew the Allies would win.

Do go to the show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. You have until September 7. An enormous array of Benton’s work has been gathered from near and far — and there are some intriguing movie clips. (I was moved by a character’s tears to put The Grapes of Wrath on my Netflix list.)

Details of the exhibition here, at the PEM website.



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