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organization Works Progress Administration

Works Progress Administration


Synopsis

During its years of operation, the government-funded Federal Art Project of the WPA hired hundreds of artists who collectively created more than 100,000 paintings and murals and over 18,000 sculptures. The Project was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal during the Great Depression (1929-1943). Some of the 20th century's greatest visual artists were employed by the Project under the auspices of the WPA, before going on to create Abstract Expressionist artworks in the post-World War II era. Some of those artists were Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Thomas Hart Benton and Stuart Davis.

Key Ideas

Under the direction of art critic and curator Holger Cahill, the Federal Art Project operated in all 48 states and instituted divisions for easel painting, murals, sculpture, posters, prints and drawings.
The Federal Art Project division of the WPA tended to favor figurative art rather than abstract art; a trend that resulted in many of the century's greatest abstract painters (Rothko, Pollock, Krasner, etc.) creating rather uncharacteristic art.
One of the largest outreach programs of the FAP was constituted by nearly 100 community art centers that provided art classes for children and developing artists.
Together these programs created a new awareness of and appreciation for the visual arts in America, and contributed heavily to the development of many artists who would go on to define the Abstract Expressionist era following the end of World War II.

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