MANDATING REGIONALSIM

The Section emphasized local and regional competition which required artists to be tied to the area in which they competed. An artist competing in the New York City area
verses an artist submitting work for a rural area of Tennessee  would have to create very different art. The section, a national program with a central administration in Washington, DC, stimulated artists and residents alike to examine and articulate what was distinctive about the respective areas in which they lived.

This encouragement and further emphasis, whose primary aim was to help foster a continual sense of national identity ironically instead catered to the strenghtening of individual regional identity.  The murals and photographs that individuals during the 30s were viewing were intended replicas of themselves and their lives.  This development at first appears to be completely against the WPA's intial intent to democratize American art and help unify its people.  However, while this style did spawn independent regional differences, it  also laid the groundwork for America's unique cultural formation.  In the United States, people brought languages and cultures with them when the immigrated, and it was co-existence or pluralism, and not pervasive local culture, that became characteristic of America.

Thus, by cultivating each region's differences and strongly insisting artists create within the boundaries of their geographic location's characteristics, the WPA indirectly helped lead to the construction, distribution, and subsequent democratization of American culture.  Furthermore, it is through the process of their attempt to manipulate and manufacture an American culture that America's roots themselves shone through and cultivated the culture it was meant to have.

For a closer look at the regional culture documented by the artwork of the Great Depression, explore the following links:

New England

The Mid-Atlantic States

Constructing a National Culture