Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The New Deal's PWAP: A proliferation of public art!

(Administrative staff and regional directors for the Public Works of Art Project. Photo from the "Public Works of Art Project, Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator, December 8, 1933 - June 30, 1934" (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934).

The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was just one of the many New Deal programs created to beautify America. In the PWAP program, unemployed artists made art for buildings and parks. Here are just some of their accomplishments during the 6-month program (December 8, 1933 to May 20, 1934):

7 Navajo blankets

9 bas reliefs

42 frescoes

43 pieces of Pueblo pottery

54 portraits

99 carvings

314 drawings

405 mural designs

647 sculptures

1,076 etchings

2,938 water color paintings

3,821 oil paintings

(Statistics from the report noted in the photo caption above)

Considering the extraordinarily dull nature of our public designs today (e.g., boring buildings, constrained colors, bland bridges, and prosaic parks), wouldn't it be great to have another Public Works of Art Project? Imagine a statue of a famous American being placed in your city or town park, or bas reliefs being added to a nearby bridge, or murals painted inside your post office and town hall. We could do it! 

....were it not for the lifeless, cynical policymakers that we are plagued with today.

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