June is Peace Month in Greenbelt…

"Provide for the Common Defense" bas relief by Lenore Thomas, 1937, Greenbelt, MD

…but long before it was established as such by the City of Greenbelt and the Prince George’s County Peace & Justice Coalition , Lenore Thomas, the sculptor whose work adorns the Greenbelt Community Center (formerly Center School) and Roosevelt Center, was making a statement about peace through her art. Thomas, who was employed by the Resettlement Administration, the Pubilc Works Administration and later by the Farm Security Administration, was allowed to choose her subject matter. For Center School, she chose to create bas reliefs which illustrate the preamble to the United States constitution, and one relief in particular bears a closer look.

“Provide for the Common Defense,” is panel comprised of a farming family to the left and soldiers to the right. The family includes a child, a mother holding a babe in arms, and a father whose shoulder abuts a line of stark, streamlined soldiers who stand in formation with faces barely visible, their mouths unseen, obscured and silenced by the guns they carry.  The farm family significantly occupies more space within the frame, and, according to Thomas, the family group is “stalwart in their resistance to the robot-like group of marching soldiers. The crosses to the right of the soldiers symbolize the death left behind them.”  This panel was supposed to symbolize “the resistance of the people to war.”

Though much more research needs to be done to determine Thomas’ political leanings, and the nature of her pacifism, the fact that she sculpted this panel on the eve of World War II, before anyone could imagine the devestation and loss of life that would result is remarkable.   

Stay tuned for more information on Lenore Thomas, as the Museum is planning an exhibition about her work to open in 2014. Also, be sure to look for products featuring her work which are being developed by Greenbelt’s 75th Anniversary Committee and which will be sold to raise funds for the celebration.

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