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[Detail] See America. Alexander Dux

2. Federal Art Project

This branch of the Federal Project Number One supported many artistic opportunities outside of advertising other WPA programs. Many visual artists were commissioned to create murals, sculptures, paintings, and posters. The Special Presentation, "Posters for the People," from the American Memory collection, The New Deal Stage: Selections from the Federal Theatre Project: 1935-1939, explains that the FAP provided visual artists in the United States with a unique opportunity:

Not only did it allow artists to practice their craft, collaborate and innovate, but it served as a collective apprenticeship for artists who brought America to the forefront of international art . . . . [such as] Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Louise Nevelson - artists who not only put U.S. art on the map but shifted the center of that map from Paris to New York.

Hundreds of community centers opened across the nation offering classroom and exhibition space as FAP employees taught art education and art appreciation courses. A search on art class produces sample posters that advertise free classes for adults and children in disciplines such as painting, sculpture, drawing, and pottery.

Meanwhile, a search on exhibition produces advertisements for events sponsoring and promoting artists ranging from local artists, including local children, members of the FAP, as well as internationally-acclaimed artists such as Pablo Picasso.

FAP workers also researched the nation's art history. A search on the phrase, Index of American Design, produces posters for exhibits of American folk art. Similar to the Federal Music Project's Index of American Composers, this project provided a photographic record of the country's artistic accomplishments by documenting thousands of paintings, sculptures, handicrafts, and folk art between 1935 and 1942.

  • Why do you think that the FAP exhibited such a wide range of art, including professional and folk art as well as work by local children?
  • Why do you think that education was an important aspect of the arts programs in Federal Project Number One?
  • What do you think is the relationship between art education and art patronage?
  • What do you think were the benefits of creating an Index of American Design?