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Federal Art Project


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A project run by the US Government from 1935 to 1943 with the dual purpose of helping artists through the Depression years and of deploying the artistic potential of the country in the decoration of public buildings and places. There were also a Federal Writers' Project, a Federal Theater Project, and a Federal Music Project, and collectively they are known as the Federal Arts Projects. They were part of the Works Progress Administration (later called Work Projects Administration, both abbreviated to WPA), a work programme for the unemployed carried out as an aspect of President F. D. Roosevelt's New Deal. At its peak the Federal Art Project employed more than 5,000 people, not only decorating public buildings but also producing prints, posters, various works of craft, and setting up community art centres and galleries in areas where art was virtually unknown. The scheme also involved an Index of American Design, a gigantic documentation of the decorative arts in America. Virtually all the major American artists of the period were involved in the Federal Art Project, either as teachers or practitioners. It generated a huge amount of work, but most of it was unremarkable in quality.

Subjects: Art.


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