Between 1929 and 1933, the gross national product shrank from $87 billion to $41 billion; during the same period, unemployment skyrocketed from 3.2% to between one-quarter to one-third of the working population. The nation was in the midst of a great economic crisis.

The rhetoric of the Great Depression is familiar to most Americans: during his famous first “hundred days,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed copious amounts of legislation into law. The FDIC, CCC, PWA, NIRA, Wagner Act all came into being. When Roosevelt terminated relief as such in 1935 in favor of labor and training, the “alphabet soup” of agencies which provided work to millions were further augmented by the Works Progress Administration, with a $1.39 billion budget under Harry Hopkins.

The economic crisis had by now begun to greatly impact artists, whose careers were never secure to begin with. Thus, while many of the eight million Americans employed under the WPA built schools, hospitals and airfields, Hopkins' contention that artists were workers, too, and deserved protection resulted in the creation of what would be known collectively as the Federal Arts Project.

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