THE ART OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION
New Deal photography and murals: Their roles in the construction of regional and national identity
A study of the different American stories murals and photographs told about the same American places
THE WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION The Works Progressive Administration (WPA) was a New Deal measure with a three part agenda. Initially, it was a government attempt to employ a variety of artists, writers, and musicians so that the work they produced could help them make a living and subsequently enhance the quality of American life during the Great Depression. From this inital aim developed several other agendas, including a federal push toward the creation of a "national culture." This concept was one developed and pushed for by a government that viewed economically struggling America as a people without a unifying, central culture. With regard to artwork, the WPA commissioned thousands of artists to observe the American scene; that is, its people, its landscape, and its architecture, and capture through their brushstrokes and lenses, the life they were seeing.
This project, focusing on the murals and photographs produced during this era, is an attempt to explore some of the consequences of government intervention with regard to the standardization and creation of an American culture. It examines in detail, both the regional and national attitudes cultivated and at the same time takes a closer look at two of the art forms, murals and photographs, employed by the federal government to construct a tangible American culture.
CONSTRUCTING A NATIONAL CULTURE