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New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources

Federal Art Project

Online Materials | External Collections


The Federal Art Project (FAP) was created in 1935 to provide work relief for artists in various media--painters, sculptors, muralists and graphic artists, with varous levels of experience. Holger Cahill, a curator and fine and folk art expert, was appointed director of the program. As with the other Federal cultural projects of the time, the program sought to bring art and artists into the everyday life of communities throughout the United States, through community art centers, exhibitions and classes.

The Federal Art Project was just one of several government-sponsored art programs of the period. Others included the 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).

Online Materials

WPA Posters
This collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection of more than 900 is the largest.The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and educational programs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The results of one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts, the posters were added to the Library's holdings in the 1940s [selected bibliography].

Fine Prints By Federal Art Project Artists
The Library's Prints & Photographs Division holds about 230 fine prints produced by the Graphic Art Division of the Federal Art Project. Catalog records for these items can be retrieved in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) by searching the "Fine Prints" category using the term "WPA." Some catalog records are accompanied by digital images.
[Retrieve these catalog records in PPOC].

Link disclaimer External Collections

National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives holds the Records of the Federal Art Project (FAP), a subgroup of Records of the Work Projects Administration [WPA], Record Group 69. This collection contains the majority of administrative records of the Federal Art Project at the federal level.

Archives Of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
The Archives has collected extensive documentation relating to the Federal Art Project and other New Deal art and photography programs, including the papers of Holger Cahill, Director of the Federal Art Project, and the papers of many administrators, artists and photographers who participated in these programs. The Archives of American Art has also compiled an extensive collection of oral history interviews, including interviews with a number of New Deal artists and photographers--including figures such as Cahill, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Anthony Velonis. The Archives also holds microfilm copies of original Federal Art Project records from the National Archives.

National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery has custody of materials from the Federal Art Project's Index of American Design,
a compilation of nearly 18,000 watercolor renderings that depict traditional American arts and crafts made before about 1890. The renderings were created under the auspices of the Index of American Design project, one of several Fine Arts Divisions in the Federal Art Project (FAP).

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  September 25, 2015
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