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Visual Arts in the 1930’s: WPA

 

            In 1929, the worst economic downturn in US history occurred and it is known as the Great Depression. It lasted until the year 1939.The Great Depression left many people without money and jobs, so a work program called the Work Project Administration(WPA) was started to help the unemployed. The WPA was created in the year 1935 under U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal. The program went on for 8 years and gave work to as many as 8.5 million Americans. The Works Projects Administration did not only help create public works projects but sponsored many projects in the arts.

            The agency helped with managing a group of programs which was known as Federal Project Number One. The program employed thousands of writers, musicians, actors and many other different artists. President Roosevelt wanted to put artist back to work to not only entertain, but to inspire the rest of the country by creating a more optimistic view of life during the very hard economic times. Many forms of art were created at the time such as motivational posters and paintings in the public buildings. Monuments were made by sculptors, and artists and musicians were paid to entertain. The first lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a lot of influence over the establishment of Federal One, and defended it against the people who felt the arts were a waste of time and money(“Works Progress Administration”).

A world-known American painter named Jackson Pollock worked for WPA’s Federal Art Project, another part of Federal One. Mr. Jackson Pollock started working as a mural assistant and then he later became an easel painter between the year 1930 and 1942. Jackson Pollock was a very influential person during the abstract expressionism movement, after World War II. The Worker’s Project Administration also employed other exploratory artists such as Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, and William de Kooning(WPA).

 The WPA is greatly admired today for the work it had offered to millions of Americans during the hard times of the Great Depression. Because of the WPA, we have many well-made roads, dams, schools, bridges and other structures that we still use today.