While the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program in which low-income men constructed trails and lodges in parks, built public roads, and otherwise improved the American environment, lasted just under a decade, it has remained an incredibly popular agency in American consciousness. Organizations push its memory, the National Park Service celebrates its past, and Americans write a surprising number of editorials about how we should revive the program. This is an unusual amount of love for a social welfare program, most of which are loathed and stigmatized in the U.S. Why are so many welfare programs villainized, even when they include a work component, while the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) invokes such pride and nostalgia? There are several reasons…

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Installation view: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby. Photo: Jason Wyche, Artwork © 2014 Kara Walker, full photo credits here

A massive, brilliantly white, sugar-coated sphinx commanded visitors’ attention at the Kara Walker exhibition at the Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn, New York last spring: At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby
an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. Referring to her artwork as a subtlety in the tradition of medieval and early modern confectionary sculptures, Walker highlights its character as a culinary political allegory: similar to the elaborate animal figurines and grandiose sugar buildings gracing the aristocratic tables of…

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