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John DeWitt papers, 1962-1979

John DeWitt papers, 1962-1979

DeWitt, John, 1910-1984

Military officer, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 1.4 linear ft.

Biographical/Historical Note

John DeWitt (1910-1984) was a wood sculptor and federal arts administrator in Washingon, D.C. As art program director, Bureau of Water Reclamation, Department of the Interior, De Witt invited a number of artists, including Norman Rockwell, Fritz Scholder, and Ralston Crawford, to depict the majesty of reclamation projects in the American West. An exhibition, of their work, THE AMERICAN ARTIST AND WATER RECLAMATION, opened at the National Gallery of Art in 1973 and travelled around the country. For the Bicentennial, as Director of the Visual Arts Program for the Department of the Interior, he organized AMERICA '76, a similar undertaking, hiring some 45 realist painters to depict a diverse range of Americana.


Donated 1987 by Miriam Hapgood DeWitt, wife of John DeWitt.

Scope and Contents

The scattered papers of federal arts administrator John DeWitt date from 1962-1979, and measure 1.4 linear feet. The collection primarily documents 1970s arts programs organized by DeWitt while working for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Department of the Interior. Found within the papers are scattered correspondence concerning the department's art projects, including the Preservation of Endangered Species Art Program and activities of the Hereward Lester Cooke Foundation. There are letters from artists Vija Celmins, Lamar Dodd, and Ethel Magafan.

Files for the two exhibitions organized by DeWitt for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, The American Artist and Water Reclamation and America 1976, include a wide variety of materials. There are correspondence, lists of artwork, printed materials, a scrapbook, financial materials, audio recordings of interviews with DeWitt, audio recordings of a symposium on America 1976, and numerous photographs of exhibited artwork and participating artists. There are also additional photographs of DeWitt and his colleagues and artists Joseph Raffael and Ann Wyeth McCoy.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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