When people think about Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), what comes to mind is often dams, bridges and roadways or other concrete symbols of the American infrastructure that the WPA helped to create. All true, but in addition, the WPA also employed over 5000 artists to create posters to spread FDR’s message and provide inspiration to a dispirited American public.

The WPA Federal Art Project was one of the first government sponsored programs to support the arts. During the 1930s and 1940s, these artists created over 2000 different posters and printed 2 million pieces before the WPA was disbanded to divert efforts toward World War II. Until then, posters promoted the arts, community activities, provided educational messages and shared progress on WPA projects.

Think about how you can add a graphic component to your “work project”. Do you need to deploy a team of artists to generate enthusiasm for what you are doing or to celebrate what you have done? Can you incorporate an artist onto your team to add an element of visual culture to your work? Are there other ways for you to support the arts in this era of reduced funding for something that contributes so much to our humanity?

If nothing else, purchase the new release of WPA Poster Stamps from the Postal Service and commemorate the time when the government employed artists to benefit the common good.


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