So what’s the deal? Or should we say “New Deal”? The Hoyt Center for the Arts recently installed a collection of WPA posters created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program at Two Rivers Artisan Coffee Works. These Depression-era posters represent a distinct time and place in American history in simple graphics and vivid color; a time when women were just entering workforce, liberty gardens were commonplace, and men were rallied to end the threat of Nazi Germany.
In response to the Great Depression, FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided work and income for over 8 million Americans who were unemployed, including Americans right here in Lawrence County. While most jobs were related to the construction of buildings and roads – the New Castle Armory and a number of bridges and walls are local examples – the WPA also created white-collar jobs including opportunities for nearly 6000 artists, musicians, writers and actors to earn a living.
Under the Federal Arts Project (FAP), artists produced murals for public buildings and schools, works on canvas, sculptures, silk-screen prints, book covers and illustrations. They were dedicated to preserving American art forms, encouraging art as a pastime, and contributing to education and research. Hundreds of art centers were established and many survive to this day.