UC Merced Library Celebrates Central Valley Culture

Series of art and literature exhibits highlight region's rich heritage

MERCED -- The UC Merced Libraryand School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Artsare "Celebrating the Central Valley" with a series of must-see special events designed to shine a spotlight on the Valley's unique cultural heritage.

Featuring breathtaking and poignant photography from the past through today, the poetry and artifacts of Wilma McDaniel - perhaps the most prolific female writer from the entire region - a lecture by "Mr. Central Valley" Gerald Haslam and a guided walking tour of the exhibits by photographer Stephen Johnson, the collection promises to enlighten and entertain academics and those just beginning to appreciate the rich heritage of the Central Valley alike.

"'Celebrating the Central Valley' is part of the goal of UC Merced to recognize the cultural production of the Central Valley," said Jan Goggans, assistant professor of literature. "We write here in the Central Valley, and we take photographs and we paint just as they do in major cities like San Francisco and New York. It just hasn't been as widely known. Having a research university here creates an opportunity for people to realize there's stuff going on here - there has been for a long time."

The second floor of the library is the stage for "From Hobos to Street People: Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to Present," an art exhibit that includes vivid and varied visual interpretations of poverty and homelessness in California across the past eight decades. The exhibit includes works by Dorothea Lange, Rockwell Kent, Giacomo Patri, Francisco Dominguez, Jane "in vain" Winckelman, Sandow Birk, Art Hazelwood and the San Francisco Print Collective The exhibit is on display and runs through Oct. 25.

"From Hobos to Street People" is an ideal complement to "Okie Poet Laureate: Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel," the exhibit on the third floor of the library that focuses exclusively on the Central Valley and interprets the experiences of average people through the eyes of a woman who was there, witnessing and living the same history.

"The McDaniel exhibit will contain a number of artifacts that our library holds," said Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay. "She had various ways of translating her experiences into different forms of media; sometimes art, sometimes short stories, sometimes poetry."

The archives are not yet open to the public, but some of the pieces will be on display. Kacy Marume,who graduated in May, spent her senior year processing artifacts in the archive. She has returned as the student curator for the exhibit since she is so intimately acquainted with her work.

"If John Steinbeck is the male voice of the Dust Bowl, then Wilma McDaniel is the female voice, telling the stories of women in the Dust Bowl," Goggans said.

The Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel Literary Estate donated large portion of the poet's personal effects and writings to UC Merced Library to archive. The pieces featured in "Okie Poet Laureate" were hand-selected to represent different elements of McDaniel's career for this exhibit. Although it will take time to process the entire collection, Barclay and Goggans believe it is important to begin sharing artifacts from this important poet who captured the lives of those who endured poverty and prejudice for decades after their arrival to the Valley from the Dust Bowl.

The McDaniel exhibit runs through Dec. 19 and, along with the rest of the events and exhibits, is open to the public as well as members of the UC Merced campus community.

To enrich the visitor's experience, "A Celebration of the Life and Work of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, featuring Central Valley writer Gerald Haslam" is an opportunity to listen to a lecture delivered by the man who is an expert on all things Central Valley. Haslam will present from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 16 in Room 355 of the library. A reception will follow.

Stephen Johnson is an acclaimed local photographer whose works are also featured in the library. Guests and visitors are invited to attend his illustrated talk "An Artist and the Land: Stephen Johnson and the Great Central Valley" plus a special walk-through of the Great Central Valley Exhibit from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 17, with a reception to follow. His and Robert Dawson's photos rub elbows with historic photos in Haslam's book "The Great Central Valley."

Sept. 16:"A Celebration of the Life and Work of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel featuring Central Valley writer Gerald Haslam," 7 to 8 p.m., UC Merced Library, Room 355. Reception to follow. Info: 209-228-2997 or jgoggans@ucmerced.edu.
Sept. 17: "An Artist and the Land: Stephen Johnson and the Great Central Valley," 7:30 to 9 p.m., UC Merced Library, Room 355. Reception to follow. Info: 209-201-9724 or dbarclay@ucmerced.edu.
Now through Oct. 25:"From Hobos to Street People: Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to Present," UC Merced Library, Second Floor. Info: 209-658-7146.
Now through Dec. 19:"Okie Poet Laureate: Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel," UC Merced Library, Third Floor. Info: 209-658-7146.


Tonya Luiz

Media Contact