Archives / Christina Lydia / Politics / Pt. 7

When The Government Supports The Arts: What We Can Learn From The 1935 Federal Art Project

The resent proliferation of 375,000 CC0 (public domain work) by The Met now joins other well-known harborers of art, like Freer|Sackler: The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art* and The Getty.

When The Government Supports The Arts: What The We Can Learn From The 1935 Federal Art Project | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904)

“To make the Museum as accessible as possible, we need to ensure that the collection exists in those online locations where people already go for doses of creativity, knowledge, and ideas. That’s why these types of partnerships are so important to the Museum, and why, by enabling these partnerships, the Open Access policy change is such an exciting milestone for digital at The Met.”

While this open access support for accessible art is heightened more because of digitized art and the ease of the internet, it is only part of the history. In 1935, during the height of the Great Depression, part of the New Deal’s relief program served to support and acknowledge the struggling artists who had also been economically impacted.

The Federal Art Project gave work to artists of various media: painters, sculptors, muralists and graphic artists — many of whom created campaign posters that served as advertisements, public service announcements, and educational promotions.

Art classes for children / REK Poster showing a child drawing. silkscreen, color. Chicago : Illinois WPA Art Project | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion

The Federal Art Project was not the only program supporting artists; it was one of several government-sponsored programs. Imagine having that today, in this moment, with this administration.

Programs included: Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) (1933-34), the Department of the Treasury’s Section of Painting and Scultpure (1934-42; renamed the Section of Fine Arts in 1938), and its Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP) (1935-38).

For greater knowledge on more subjects use your library often! / V. Donaghue. Chicago : Illinois WPA Art Project, [1940] Poster promoting library use, showing a man in a pose based on Rodin's "Thinker." | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion

Save your eyes - use your goggles [Illinois : Federal Art Project, 1936 or 1937] silkscreen, color. Poster for WPA Illinois Safety Division promoting safety and use of proper eye protection. | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion

These government-sponsored art programs not only provided some economic relief for the struggling artists, but showed the importance of appreciating and valuing each individual’s skills. What The Met decided to do with some of its art solidifies the importance of art and culture in shaping and rejuvenating a society. The benefit of acknowledging art and valuing creativity serves to uphold elements that define us as people and serves to establish better understanding of our differences and of each other.

“Art inspires us, and imagination and creativity lead to artistic expressions that expand knowledge and understanding.” The Getty


BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion | Christina Lydia
The Black Lion is a humble interdisciplinary journal that values your voice. Visit the submissions page to learn more about submitting to the Journal’s sections or to The Wire’s Dream Magazine.

*Most work found through the Smithsonian is for non-commercial use only.


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