WPA art

Art that was commissioned or otherwise paid for on a contract basis has always struggled for legitimacy in the art community, but especially if the client is a government body.

This is a type of intolerance that is found all over, all the time, on all kinds of topics.

But that doesn't mean it cannot be challenged.


Federal Project Number One was the name of a collection of New Deal programs during the Great Depression.  This included; The Federal Writer's Project, The Federal Theatre Project, The Federal Music Project and The Federal Art Project. 

All of this was under the massive Works Progress Administration (WPA) umbrella, which had the goal of creating employment for chronically long-term unemployed groups in the United States.

The pay was low and the budgets were very tight.  Typically the artists operated under the authority of a bureaucrat who probably had little art appreciation.

Despite these conditions, several artists rose to the challenge of working within these conditions; creating an effective message and working with extremely limited budgets.


This is an example of an extremely low-cost silk screened poster that communicates the solitary enjoyment of hiking with absolute minimalist imagery.


This is an interesting example of a Federal Art Project poster announcing a Federal Music Project performance.

Several artists did eventually come into prominence after their stint in the Federal Art Project, including Grant Wood, Jackson Pollock and Diego Rivera.