Close this search box.

Critical Lens: ART x CETA

Critical Lens: ART x CETA

Join us virtually or in person to explore the history of how a government-funded jobs program put artists to work across New York City.

RSVP on Eventbrite here

City LoreArtists Alliance Inc., and the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) present Critical Lens: ART X CETA, a panel discussion spotlighting the Municipal Archives‘ CETA Artists Project collection, as well as the history and significance of the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) jobs program (1973-1981). Moderated by City Lore Co-Director, Molly Garfinkel.

CETA employed over 10,000 artists and cultural workers across the nation, and funded artist projects for 600 NYC visual artists, poets, dancers, performers, and photographers, among many other specialists, in connection with New York area schools, libraries, museums, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and more.

Learn about this often forgotten yet critical history and hear City Lore, Artists Alliance Inc., and Cultural Council Foundation CETA alumni – including members of the Documentation Unit – discuss CETA’s legacy. Join us either virtually (via Zoom) or in person (for a limited number of guests) to discover how CETA’s employment of artists serves as a precedent for envisioning how we can create sustained investment in artists today, permanently infusing the creativity and resourcefulness of artists into our workforce.

Note: if you are interested in attending this event in person at 31 Chambers Street, NYC 10007 (between Elk and Centre Streets), please RSVP for this event. All attendees will be contacted via email to determine whether they would like to be a part of the in-person audience. In-person attendees must wear a mask.


Ellin Burke retired in 2016 after a forty five-year career in the museum world. She started as an assistant registrar at The New-York Historical Society, where she became interested in the conservation of painting. Following a three-year conservation study in Bologna, Italy, Burke returned to New York and became an assistant paintings conservator for a private company. However, a skin allergy to the harsh chemicals caused her to leave conservation. At this time, she signed on to the CCF CETA Artists Project as the “Archivist; Coordinator, Public Art and Exhibitions Team,” coordinating and scheduling three photographers and three writers to document all the work on the project. The CETA project was a wonderful two years, allowing her to meet hundreds of artists and visit many art projects around the city (and also meet the video documentarian Marc Levin, who became her husband and the father of their twins, and grandfather of four). After that, Burke was the collection manager at the Whitney Museum of American Art for ten years, and then the Chief Registrar at the Museum of the City of New York. She then spent several years as a free-lance contract registrar, working for several collectors and was the registrar for “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.” Burke finished her career as a contract registrar at MoMA. She is currently creating an online archive of the work of photographer Clayton Patterson, and happily teaching her young grandchildren to draw circles, count, and swim.

Kenneth R. Cobb has been associated with the Municipal Archives at the NYC Department of Records & Information Services (DORIS) for more than 42 years. Cobb served as Director of the Municipal Archives from 1990 to 2005 when he was appointed Assistant Commissioner at DORIS. Cobb received an M.A. in American History at Columbia University in 1978. He was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Virginia Maksymowicz is a mixed-media installation artist based in Philadelphia. She earned a BA in Fine Art from Brooklyn College, and an MFA in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego. Recently retired from teaching, she holds the title of Professor Emerita of Sculpture, Franklin & Marshall College. For two years (1978-79) she participated in the CCF CETA Artist Project. Working in all five boroughs, she taught art to children in schools and neighborhood centers, mounted exhibitions, and produced public artworks. Her experiences laid the groundwork for the next 40+ years of her career. Along with her CETA-artist, husband Blaise Tobia, and a small group of other CETA artists, she helped form the CETA Arts Legacy Project to preserve the history of this important federal program. In connection with this effort, she oversees an open-access research archive on Google Drive.

George Malave, a visual artist based in New York, studied at the Germain School of Photography, the Educational Alliance Photography Institute and earned a BA from the State University of New York. Malave was part of the New York CETA Artist Project Documentation Unit from 1978-80. He is a recipient of a Creative Artist Public Service Fellowship and a National Endowment Survey Grant. His work has been exhibited in institutions throughout the United States and included in collections at the New York Public Library Photographic Collection, New York Municipal Archives and Museum of the City of New York. A selection of Malave’s work has been published in a series of limited-edition books, which include: The Third Avenue El, The Tourist, Creatures, and Varet Street Kids. Selection of his work can be viewed at:

Blaise Tobia resides in Philadelphia as an active exhibiting artist/photographer and is an emeritus professor at Drexel University. He worked in the CCF CETA Artists Project for two years soon after receiving his MFA degree from UCSD and, in retrospect, sees that period as a real-world complement to his graduate studies. In 1978 he served as one of three photographers on the project’s documentation unit, and this gave him access to a great diversity of working artists and cultural events. It also allowed him to hone his skills as a professional photographer. In 1979 he served in varied community assignments. Many of his photographs are included in project’s records held by the NYC Municipal Archive. His admiration for the project – how it was designed and what it did for both its artists and for the city – has continued to grow. In 2015 he joined with his wife and fellow CETA alum Virginia Maksymowicz and a small group of other CCF project alumni to form the CETA Arts Legacy Project which posted Wikipedia entries and launched a website in the hope that the project’s accomplishments would not be lost to history.

Judd Tully is an award-winning journalist and widely published art world writer and art critic, appearing in publications ranging from THE ARTNEWSPAPER and Flash Art magazine to the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post and Blouin ARTNEWS. Tully worked as a writer in the Documentation Unit of the Cultural Council Foundation CETA Artists Project.

*Please feel free to share this invitation.

*The panel discussion will be followed by a Q&A.

*Zoom access information will be shared a few days prior to the event.

*Masks are required for in-person attendees.

*If you require an auxiliary aid or service in order to attend a DORIS event, please contact our Disability Service Facilitator.


Oct 11 2022


6:00 PM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top