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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021



Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.


Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.


It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.


The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.


Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.


It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.


This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.


Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.


Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 


“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 


This weeks front page:



With fall just around the corner, many gardeners are concerned about what’s going on outside. This means many houseplants are left to fend for themselves. However, now is a great time to think about repotting your houseplants. 

There are a few ways to tell if your houseplants need some attention. Many houseplants become root bound before you realize. This happens when the plant grows too big for its container and the roots get all matted and tangled. Some plants like being slightly root bound though, like a Peace Lily, so check before you replant. If your plant is looking particularly droopy or stops growing all together, it’s time to repot. If you’ve had a plant in the same container for a long time, chances are the soil needs changing. Old potting soil literally does nothing for plants because the nutrients are all tapped out. Remember, if you move a houseplant into a larger pot than it was in before, it will concentrate on root growth rather than growing big full leaves and stems. Just because the plant doesn’t immediately grow big and full to fill the pot, doesn’t mean it’s not growing somewhere.

So what is the best way to go about repotting your plant? Well, first you should water your plant a couple hours in advance. This will keep the plant happy during the big move. Plus its a lot easier to replant a lively plant than one that’s all droopy from lack of water. Once your soil is dryer, gently turn the pot upside-down or sideways and pull the pot from the rootball. Don’t try and yank the plant out by the stem. 

Now you should prepare the root ball for the new pot. Without causing massive root damage, loosen the roots from one another. You can use your fingers or a stick to separate tangled chucks of roots. This will ensure that the new potting soil will incorporate itself in between roots and encourage the roots to spread out. 

Next, you should concentrate on prepping your new pot or container. It’s said that you should only move up one pot size when repotting. So if you have a 12” pot your new pot should only be 14”. If you over pot it can slow growth, but eventually your plant will catch up. Many people choose to throw some gravel or pebbles into the bottom of their pots. This can help and hurt the plant. If your pot doesn’t have good drainage holes this can be a good practice. However, most of the time the gravel just takes up more room, reducing the amount the plant can grow.  If your pot has good drainage, there shouldn’t be any need for gravel. Throw a little bit of soil in the bottom few inches of your new pot before planting. 

One of the main problems folks run into when replanting, is planting too deep. The plant shouldn’t be covered any more than it was in the first pot. Planting too deep can cause your plant to collapse, which is heartbreaking to say the least. After you get your plant situated, give it a good drink, watering until you seem it leak from the bottom drainage holes. Don’t fertilized for a month or two because most potting mixes have some fertilizer incorporated in them already. If you fertilized too soon, you run the risk of burning the new root growth. 


                                           – Happy Planting!