The Great Depression was a very difficult period for many, and affected a large number of American artists
and graphic designers due to the lack of commercial work. In 1935 the US federal government
created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with the aim to provide job opportunities
for the unemployed as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The fall of the same year saw the launch of the WPA Federal Arts Project, which enabled visual artists,
musicians, actors and writers to support themselves and pursue their professional careers.
A poster project was included, and around 2,000 silkscreen, lithograph and woodcut posters were commissioned
to promote health and safety, cultural events, travel and tourism, educational programs and community activities.
The posters were produced across the nation, with the greatest output in California, New York,
Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Two posters by Louise Welsh
Two posters by Carken
In many cases, the flat color of silkscreen combined with influences from the European avant-gardes
to produce strikingly graphic, bold Modernist designs that contrasted with the realistic illustrative style
prevalent in most American graphic communication of the time.
Frank W. Long
Two posters by Hugh Stevenson
Frank S. Nicholson
All of these posters were created between 1935 and 1939, when the Federal Arts Project was discontinued.
Fortunately, this great art series has recently been rediscovered and appreciated by many artists and designers.
And wouldn't it be great if governments could also be inspired to provide a similar opportunity
to survive and thrive in a time of crisis to the young talents of today?