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Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, circa 1920-1965, bulk 1935-1942

Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, circa 1920-1965, bulk 1935-1942

Federal Art Project. Photographic Division

Collection Information

Size: 12.4 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

The Federal Art Project, as well as the Federal Music Project, Federal Theater Project and Federal Writers' Project were all projects of the Work Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Project No. 1. The WPA was established in May 1935 specifically as a work relief program for the millions of individuals left unemployed during the Depression. Its name changed to the Work Projects Administration in 1939 when it fell under the administrative hand of the newly created Federal Works Agency. (At that same time, the Federal Art Project officially became the Federal Art Program.) Under the Federal Art Project, separate photographic divisions were set up in several states, most notably in New York City. In addition to documenting the work and activities of artists employed on the program, photographers documented the activities of other projects under "Federal One," including the Federal Theater and Music Projects. Photographers also worked on creative assignments for exhibitions, photo murals, etc.


Donated anonymously.

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Scope and Contents

The Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection dates from circa 1920-1965, with the bulk of the records spanning the active years of the Federal Art Project (FAP), 1935-1942. The collection comprises 12.4 linear feet of mostly photographic prints and negatives. Artist files comprise approximately three-quarters of the collection and contain photographs of artwork by artists involved in the FAP in addition to some photographs of the artists themselves.

The remainder of the collection consists of files documenting related activities and programs of the FAP arranged by subject. The bulk of these files document the activities of the New York City FAP including free art classes and art exhibitions for adults and children, exhibitions at the Harlem Art Center, and the work of FAP branches including the Easel Division, the Graphic Arts Division and the Poster Division.

Also found here are photographs of federal and community art centers in eleven other states (most extensively Washington State) and other WPA projects such as the Federal Theater, Music and Writer's projects, in addition to buildings decorated with FAP artwork, photographs of artists demonstrating art processes, and photographs of special events and people involved with the FAP.

Photographers include: Andrew Herman, Sol Horn, David Robbins, Leo Seltzer, and others.

One folder contains images that appear to have been taken by Berenice Abbott for the exhibition Changing New York, for the Museum of the City of New York in collaboration with the WPA.

This collection is also available on 35 mm microfilm reels 1160-1174 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid may not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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