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WPA – Works Progress Administration


New Deal Art During the Great Depression

On May 6, 1935, the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) was created to help provide economic relief to the citizens of the United States who were suffering through the Great Depression. The artistic community had already become inspired during the 1920s and ’30s by the revitalization of the Italian Renaissance fresco style by the inspired creations of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueriros.

Certain visionary U.S. politicians decided to combine the creativity of the new art movements with the values of the American people. The Federal Art Project was one of the divisions of the W.P.A. created under Federal Project One. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had made several attempts prior to the F.A.P. to provide employment for artists on relief, namely the Public Works of Art Project (P.W.A.P.) which operated from 1933 to 1934 and the Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture which was created in 1934 after the demise of the P.W.A.P. However, it was the F.A.P. which provided the widest reach, creating over 5,000 jobs for artists and producing over 225,000 works of art for the American people.

It is this legacy of the thousands of workers who labored at their craft for little money but great pride which we have to inspire us today. Although many of these works of art found in post offices in Alabama to as far away as the Virgin Islands, have been destroyed or stolen, those that remain must be preserved. They stand as a reminder of a time in our country’s history when dreams were not allowed to be destroyed by economic disaster.

Who is in charge of the legacy of the WPA Federal Art Project?

The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 transferred all functions of the Federal Works Agency, including works of art produced under the various art projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), to the General Services Administration (GSA).

The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. §471 et seq.) provides General Services Administration (GSA) with the authority to procure and supply real and personal property and non-personal services, and transferred all functions of the Federal Works Agency, including artwork from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), to the GSA. -

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