Wpa - federal arts project

DEFINITION

An acronym for Works Progress Administration, WPA was a federal program established with a budget of thirty-five million dollars by the U.S. government in August 1935 during the Depression. The program, which lasted until April 1943, provided employment for millions of people including artists under its division called Federal Arts Project. The WPA was an idea of artist George Biddle, who proposed it to his friend and schoolmate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then President of the United States. FAP artists, about 2500 and many whom had no other source of income, were assigned the goal of decorating public buildings with themes related to American life. They produced over 15,000 works of art including oil paintings, murals, sculptures, watercolors, etchings and drawings. Nearly every known artist of the period, except those who had regular teaching jobs, became involved, and well-respected artists headed divisions reflecting their special skills: Burgoyne Diller for Murals, Girolamo Piccoli for Sculpture, Ernest Limbach and Gustave Von Groschwitz for Graphics, and Alexander Stavenitz for Teaching. Using resumes and data showing financial need, these section heads determined artists??? eligibility. Once accepted, artists were allowed to transfer among various divisions, and the most popular areas were easel painting, teaching, murals and printmaking. Numerous prints of the two-dimensional works remain in circulation, and many are highly collectible as are works with initials "WPA" after the artist???s signature. When the Federal Arts Project terminated in April 1943, reportedly artists were not alerted until they showed up for their weekly checks. Unprepared financially, many of them desperately scrambled to find work. Also much of the artwork they had produced was thrown away or ???purchased in bulk by junk dealers???. (Hendler) The reason for termination of the Federal Arts Projects was that many government officials feared that participants would organize labor unions or work for communists, producing propaganda. However, the overall result of the FPA was positive in that many murals remain in public buildings, especially post offices; artists were generally able to subsist during the Depression; the program was a valuable learning experience for the participants; and it aroused a much greater public interest and appreciation in American art, which led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts twenty-five years after the WPA ended. Sources: Jeanette Hendler, ???WPA/NYC Artists???, Essay for AskART, 2004; Roberta Maneker, 'Sleeping Giants', "Art & Antiques", June 2005; ???Phaidon Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art???; Source: Robert Atkins, "ART SPOKE"; AskART database.

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