America Fights the Depression CWA 1933-34 - Photo #4

The art section begins on p.81 of the book with the text below. Page 82, image above, shows (top) Murals, ”Veterinary Medicine,” for main stairway, Library of Iowa State College by Grant Wood and colleagues, and (bottom) Mural, Cleveland Auditorium by Jack J. Greitzer. Click the Enlarge button on top to see them up close (you might also have to click again to make your browser show them full size instead of scaled).


The Public Works of Art came to the aid of American artists at a time when the private market for works of art had practically disappeared and even our best known artists found themselves as a consequence in financial straits. Although gratefully accepted as timely relief for then desperate need, nevertheless the artists also saw in this project an opportunity to prove that there is in this country an art movement of genuine importance and vitality, a movement that may be made to contribute definitely to the cultural and artistic interests of our people.

Artists of every state in the Union and the Territory of Hawaii, regardless of their school, their type of painting or their affiliations were given an opportunity to participate in the project. They were selected on the basis of their qualifications as artists and their need of employment. The subject matter assigned to them was the American scene in all its phases. Within the scope of this very general assignment the artists were given the utmost freedom of expression, and there resulted a fine visual record of contemporary American life.

The work has gone into Federal buildings, schools, hospitals (particularly children's wards), court houses, parks, and natural history museums, and in fact into any public place qualified under the terms of the grant. The genuine surprise has been the reaction of the public. By and large throughout the country the people have become art minded. Public Works of Art committees everywhere were deluged with applications for work to be placed in national, state, and municipal buildings. In one region, for instance, where there were 125 projects going on, there were actually applications on file for 350 additional projects. As the undertaking is being wound up, there are thousands of applications for murals, pictures and works of art produced hy the CWA artists from public institutions throughout the United States which it has been impossible to satisfy.

The project has brought about recognition of the value of culture and the arts In American life. It is a significant example of the President's desire to give the people of this country "a more abundant life." It might be termed the first completely democratic art movement in our history. That the artists of the country have accepted the challenge hy giving their best was proved hy the National Exhibition held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and numerous regional exhibitions throughout the country.