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Free Tuesday Talk: Belle Baranceanu, Modern Art and the New Deal

Prior to the onset of the Great Depression, San Diego was often viewed as a provincial coastal town; a cultural wasteland perhaps, and certainly not a major art center. Young professional artists in the decades before the Great Depression centered themselves in New York or Chicago, but not in California. 

The New Deal injected federal government funds into the arts, and brought sweeping changes to the region that have had a lasting impact in San Diego. Although Belle Baranceanu was a rising star in Chicago’s art world before 1929, she was a victim of the hard economic times plaguing the Midwest and the rest of the country. Baranceanu’s art career could have easily been derailed entirely, but her talent and determination were recognized, and she was one of a small number of San Diego artists hired to produce art for all of the federal government art projects locally. These projects turned out to be soul saving for the artist and fabulous for local communities who were given the gift of fine art in public schools, and beautifully designed federal buildings and posts offices. Dr. Hernandez’s talk will focus on how Baranceanu’s legacy lives on today.



Jennifer Peoples Hernandez is a currently a Lecturer in History at San Diego Mesa College. She earned her Ph.D. in History at Claremont Graduate University. Her dissertation research focused on Belle Baranceanu, the federal government art projects and the Great Depression in San Diego.



Come to the History Center on the second Tuesday of each month for a presentation about our shared history—both popular and obscure—and uncover something new! Join a monthly conversation about San Diego’s untold stories relevant to a changing community.

Free Tuesday Talks are always free with Give Forward admission.


March 10, 2020
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


San Diego History Center
1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA 92101 United States