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Art Goes to Main Street

April 1937

Under federal work projects in art, music, writing and the drama, men and women have been painting American stuff on the walls of our buildings, giving the public classical and popular music free or at low prices, compiling a huge illustrated Baedeker for the United States, and acting plays in theaters, halls, parks and institutions.

Instruction in elementary and advanced arts, crafts and music in the neighborhood centers under the projects has given employment to teachers of those subjects and provided young people and adults with new interests for their leisure.

Among the many novelties offered by the Federal Theater was the dramatization of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here. It was played in twenty-three cities. Tampa saw a Spanish version; Seattle a performance by a company of white and Negro actors, the white actors in the roles of authority to emphasize the helplessness of a minority people under a totalitarian state. New York and Los Angeles had Yiddish as well as English companies. Three hundred thousand people have seen the play.


A mural for Ellis Island

At work on sculpture for public buildings

Eddie Learns to Paint

Eight-year-old Eddie from a boys' club
learns to paint

It does happen in Doremus Fessup's office
on a Broadway stage

WPA Orchestra

WPA Symphony Orchestra


Grown-ups study the piano
on dummy keyboards


Cartoon for a stained glass window
at West Point on the life of Washington

Many nations and races are represented
in the racial survey group of writers


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003