Federal Art Project

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WPA muralist Eric Mose at work on his fresco, Power (1936), in the library of Samuel Gompers Industrial High School for Boys in the Bronx, New York
Eric Mose with his mural Power (1936) at Samuel Gompers High School
Poster summarizing Federal Art Project employment and activities (November 1, 1936)

The Federal Art Project (1935–43) was a New Deal program to fund the visual arts in the United States. Under national director Holger Cahill, it was one of five Federal Project Number One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration, and the largest of the New Deal art projects. It was created not as a cultural activity but as a relief measure to employ artists and artisans to create murals, easel paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, theatre scenic design, and arts and crafts. The WPA Federal Art Project established more than 100 community art centers throughout the country, researched and documented American design, commissioned a significant body of public art without restriction to content or subject matter, and sustained some 10,000 artists and craft workers during the Great Depression.

Background[edit]

The Federal Art Project was the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration, a Federal One program. Funded under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, it operated from August 29, 1935, until June 30, 1943. It was created as a relief measure to employ artists and artisans to create murals, easel paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, Index of American Design documentation, museum and theatre scenic design, and arts and crafts. The Federal Art Project operated community art centers throughout the country where craft workers and artists worked, exhibited and educated others.[1] The project created more than 200,000 separate works, some of them remaining among the most significant pieces of public art in the country.[2]

The Federal Art Project's primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal municipal buildings and public spaces. Artists were paid $23.60 a week; tax-supported institutions such as schools, hospitals and public buildings paid only for materials.[3] The work was divided into art production, art instruction and art research. The primary output of the art-research group was the Index of American Design, a mammoth and comprehensive study of American material culture.

As many as 10,000 artists were commissioned to produce work for the WPA Federal Art Project,[4] the largest of the New Deal art projects. Three comparable but distinctly separate New Deal art projects were administered by the United States Department of the Treasury: the Public Works of Art Project (1933–34), the Section of Painting and Sculpture (1934–43) and the Treasury Relief Art Project (1935–38).[5]

The WPA program made no distinction between representational and nonrepresentational art. Abstraction had not yet gained favor in the 1930s and 1940s and, thus, was virtually unsalable. As a result, the Federal Art Project supported such iconic artists as Jackson Pollock before their work could earn them income.[6]

Holger Cahill was national director of the Federal Art Project. Other administrators included Audrey McMahon, director of the New York Region (New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia); Clement B. Haupers, director for Minnesota;[7] and Robert Bruce Inverarity, director for Washington state.

Notable artists[edit]

Some 10,000 artists were commissioned to work for the Federal Art Project.[4] Notable artists include the following:

"Wild Life: The National Parks Preserve All Life.", New York City Federal Art Project, WPA, 1940
Poster for a Federal Art Project forum for artists (1936)
Poster for National Art Week (1940)

Community Art Center program[edit]

State City Name Notes
Alabama Birmingham Extension art gallery[2]:441
Alabama Birmingham Healey School Art Gallery [2]:441
Alabama Mobile Mobile Art Center, Public Library Building [2]:441
Arizona Phoenix Phoenix Art Center [2]:441
District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Children's Art Gallery [2]:441
Florida Bradenton Bradenton Art Center [2]:441
Florida Coral Gables Coral Gables Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:441
Florida Daytona Beach Daytona Beach Art Center [2]:441
Florida Jacksonville Jacksonville Art Center [2]:441
Florida Jacksonville Jacksonville Beach Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:441
Florida Jacksonville Jacksonville Negro Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:441
Florida Key West Key West Community Art Center [2]:441
Florida Miami Miami Art Center [2]:441
Florida Milton Milton Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:441
Florida New Smyrna Beach New Smyrna Beach Art Center [2]:441
Florida Ocala Ocala Art Center [2]:441
Florida Pensacola Pensacola Art Center [2]:441
Florida St. Petersburg Jordan Park Negro Exhibition Center [2]:441
Florida St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Art Center [2]:442
Florida St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Civic Exhibition Center [2]:442
Florida Tampa Tampa Art Center [2]:442
Florida Tampa West Tampa Negro Art Gallery [2]:442
Illinois Chicago South Side Community Art Center [2]:442
Iowa Mason City Mason City Art Center [2]:442
Iowa Ottumwa Ottumwa Art Center [2]:442
Iowa Sioux City Sioux City Art Center [2]:442
Kansas Topeka Topeka Art Center [2]:442
Minnesota Minneapolis Walker Art Center [2]:442[28]
Mississippi Greenville Delta Art Center [2]:442
Mississippi Oxford Oxford Art Center [2]:442[29]
Mississippi Sunflower Sunflower County Art Center [2]:442
Missouri St. Louis The People's Art Center [2]:442
Montana Butte Butte Art Center [2]:442
Montana Great Falls Great Falls Art Center [2]:442
New Mexico Gallup Gallup Art Center [2]:443[30]
New Mexico Melrose Melrose Art Center [2]:443
New Mexico Roswell Roswell Museum and Art Center [2]:443
New York City Brooklyn Brooklyn Community Art Center [2]:443
New York City Manhattan Contemporary Art Center [2]:443[31]
New York City Harlem Harlem Community Art Center [2]:443
New York City Flushing, Queens Queensboro Community Art Center [2]:443
North Carolina Cary Cary Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
North Carolina Greenville Greenville Art Gallery [2]:443
North Carolina Raleigh Crosby-Garfield School Extension art gallery[2]:443
North Carolina Raleigh Needham B. Broughton High School Extension art gallery[2]:443
North Carolina Raleigh Raleigh Art Center [2]:444
North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington Art Center [2]:443
Oklahoma Bristow Bristow Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Claremore Claremore Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Claremore Will Rogers Public Library Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Clinton Clinton Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Cushing Cushing Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Edmond Edmond Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Marlow Marlow Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Oklahoma City Oklahoma Art Center [2]:443
Oklahoma Okmulgee Okmulgee Art Center Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Sapulpa Sapulpa Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Shawnee Shawnee Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oklahoma Skiatook Skiatook Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:443
Oregon Gold Beach Curry County Art Center [2]:444
Oregon La Grande Grande Ronde Valley Art Center [2]:444
Oregon Salem Salem Art Center [2]:444
Pennsylvania Somerset Somerset Art Center [2]:444
Tennessee Chattanooga Hamilton County Art Center [2]:444
Tennessee Memphis LeMoyne Art Center [2]:444
Tennessee Nashville Peabody Art Center [2]:444
Tennessee Norris Anderson County Art Center [2]:444
Utah Cedar City Cedar City Art Exhibition Association Extension art gallery[2]:444
Utah Helper Helper Community Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:444
Utah Price Price Community Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:444
Utah Provo Provo Community Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:444
Utah Salt Lake City Utah State Art Center [2]:444
Virginia Altavista Altavista Extension Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Virginia Big Stone Gap Big Stone Gap Art Gallery [2]:444
Virginia Lynchburg Lynchburg Art Gallery [2]:444
Virginia Richmond Children's Art Gallery [2]:444
Virginia Saluda Middlesex County Museum Extension art gallery[2]:444
Washington Chehalis Lewis County Exhibition Center Extension art gallery[2]:444
Washington Pullman Washington State College Extension art gallery[2]:444
Washington Spokane Spokane Art Center [2]:444[32]
West Virginia Morgantown Morgantown Art Center [2]:445
West Virginia Parkersburg Parkersburg Art Center [2]:445
West Virginia Scotts Run Scotts Run Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Casper Casper Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Lander Lander Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Laramie Laramie Art Center [2]:445
Wyoming Newcastle Lander Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Rawlins Rawlins Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Riverton Riverton Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Rock Springs Rock Springs Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Sheridan Sheridan Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445
Wyoming Torrington Torrington Art Gallery Extension art gallery[2]:445

WPA Art Recovery Project[edit]

Hundreds of thousands of artworks were commissioned under the Federal Art Project.[4] Many of the portable works have been lost, abandoned or given away as unauthorized gifts. As custodian of the work, which remains Federal property, the General Services Administration maintains an inventory[33] and works with the FBI and art community to identify and recover WPA art.[34] In 2010 it produced a 22-minute documentary about the WPA Art Recovery Project, "Returning America’s Art to America", narrated by Charles Osgood.[35]

In July 2014, the General Services Administration estimated that only 20,000 of the portable works have been located to date.[33][36] In 2015, GSA investigators found 122 Federal Art Project paintings in California libraries, where most had been stored and forgotten.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Employment and Activities poster for the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co Kalfatovic, Martin R. (1994). The New Deal Fine Arts Projects: A Bibliography, 1933–1992. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-2749-2. Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  3. ^ Brenner, Anita (April 10, 1938). "America Creates American Murals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d Naylor, Brian (April 16, 2014). "New Deal Treasure: Government Searches For Long-Lost Art". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  5. ^ "New Deal Artwork: GSA's Inventory Project". General Services Administration. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  6. ^ Atkins, Robert (1993). ArtSpoke: A Guide to Modern Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1848-1944. Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-1-55859-388-6.
  7. ^ Minnesota Historical Society; WPA Art Project; http://www.mnhs.org/library/tips/history_topics/07wpa.php retvd 6 14 15
  8. ^ "Background". Changing New York. New York Public Library. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  9. ^ "The Artist and His Life". The Artwork of Benjamin Abramowitz (1917–2011). S.A. Rosenbaum & Associates. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  10. ^ "Oral history interview with Maxine Albro and Parker Hall". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. July 27, 1964. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  11. ^ "Oral history interview with Charles Henry Alston". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. September 28, 1965. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  12. ^ "Selma Burke". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  13. ^ "Recovering America's Art for America". General Services Administration. 2010. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  14. ^ Conn, Charis (February 15, 2013). "Art in Public: Stuart Davis on Abstract Art and the WPA, 1939". Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project. WNYC. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  15. ^ "Oral history interview with Burgoyne Diller". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. October 2, 1964. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Kennedy, Roger G.; Larkin, David (2009). When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8478-3089-3. 
  17. ^ "Waylande Gregory". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. June 2, 1937. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  18. ^ "Oral history interview with Lee Krasner". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. November 2, 1964 – April 11, 1968. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  19. ^ "New Mexico State University: Branson Library Art – Las Cruces NM". The Living New Deal. Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  20. ^ "Louise Nevelson". Guggenheim Collection Online. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  21. ^ WPA Art Inventory Project - Artists' Pages - Connecticut State Archives accessed 6/28/2015 from http://wpa.cslib.org/?s=Nichols
  22. ^ "Jackson Pollock". Guggenheim Collection Online. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  23. ^ "Oral history interview with Ad Reinhardt". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. 1964. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  24. ^ "City College of San Francisco: Rivera Mural – San Francisco CA". The Living New Deal. Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  25. ^ "Augusta Savage". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  26. ^ "Oral history interview with Louis Schanker". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. 1963. Retrieved 2015-06-16. 
  27. ^ "Oral history interview with Ben Shahn". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. October 3, 1965. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  28. ^ Rash, John (January 30, 2015). "The Walker's WPA roots are still relevant today". Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota). Retrieved 2015-06-21. 
  29. ^ Grieve, Victoria (2009). The Federal Art Project and the Creation of Middlebrow Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780252034213. 
  30. ^ "WPA Art Collection – Gallup NM". The Living New Deal. Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2015-07-19. 
  31. ^ Abbott, Leala (December 2004). "Arts and Culture, Art Center records 1930–2004, Finding Aid". Milstein/Rosenthal Center for Media & Technology. 92nd Street Y. Retrieved 2015-06-21. In 1935 and 1936, 92Y, in cooperation with the federal Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) and the New York City Board of Education, began offering free courses … The Contemporary Art Center, part of the W.P.A.'s Federal Art Project, offered daytime courses for serious art students and was led by Nathaniel Dirk. 
  32. ^ Mahoney, Eleanor (2012). "The Spokane Arts Center: Bringing Art to the People". The Great Depression in Washington State. Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Project, University of Washington. Retrieved 2015-06-23. 
  33. ^ a b "New Deal Artwork: GSA's Inventory Project". General Services Administration. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  34. ^ "New Deal Artwork: Ownership and Responsibility". General Services Administration. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  35. ^ "Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Recovery Project". Office of the Inspector General, General Services Administration. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  36. ^ MacFarlane, Scott (September 17, 2014). "Lost History: Hunting for WPA Paintings". NBC 4 (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  37. ^ MacFarlane, Scott (April 20, 2015). "Dozens of Pieces of Lost WPA Art Found in California". NBC 4 (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 2015-06-13. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kennedy, Roger G., and David Larkin (2009). When art worked. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0-8478-3089-3. 
  • Federal Art Project. New York City. Federal Art Centers of New York. FAP: New York, 1937? 8 pp.
    • A brief overview of art in America and the functions of the FAP. Brief description of what the FAP art centers do, particularly in New York City. Brief descriptions of the four art centers in New York: Contemporary Art Center; Brooklyn Community Art Center; Harlem Community Art Center; and the Queensboro Community Art Center. FOUND IN AAA Reel 1085.19-27

External links[edit]