The Farnsworth Art Museum will present a talk by Virginia Tuttle titled Picturing a Usable Past in American Design Thursday, March 7. The talk, in conjunction with the ongoing exhibition “Maine and the Index of American Design,” will take place at 2 p.m. in the downtown museum’s auditorium.

In the 1930s, the American arts community hoped to foster the growth of a distinctly American modernism in both the fine and industrial arts. This impulse toward cultural nationalism had gradually developed over the two previous decades as a group of Americans discovered what they identified as the “true spirit of America” in the simple forms and abstractions of folk art. They believed that if American artists and designers were acquainted with this largely forgotten trove of a “purely” American art, a new, national mode of visual expression would surely develop. The Index of American Design, one of the WPA’s Federal Art Projects, is the result and embodiment of this quest for a quintessentially American language of art.

Tuttle is a retired curator from the National Gallery of Art, now living in Camden. In 2002, she curated the exhibition “Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism and the Index of American Design” at the National Gallery.

The fee for this program is $10, $8 for Farnsworth members. Snow date is Friday, March 8, at 2 p.m. For more information or to register, visit farnsworthmuseum.org. “Maine and the Index of American Design” is on view through March 24.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.