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

Federal Art Project. Photographic Division

This site provides access to the papers of Federal Art Project. Photographic Division in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2017, and total 18,430 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Walton Family Foundation.

Collection Information

Size: 12.4 linear feet

Summary: The Federal Art Project (FAP), Photographic Division collection dates from circa 1920-1965, with the bulk of the records spanning the active years of the FAP: 1935-1942. The collection comprises 12.4 linear feet of photographic prints and negatives, including photos of FAP artists and the artwork created by them, and other activities of the FAP in communities throughout New York City and other states. Photographers include Andrew Herman, Sol Horn, David Robbins, Leo Seltzer, and others.
Artist files comprise three-quarters of the collection and consist primarily of photographs of artwork, as well as scattered photos of artists at work, including: Charles Alston, Luis Arenal, Richmond Barthe, John Benson, Andrew Berger, Lucille Blanch, Lucienne Bloch, Ilya Bolotowsky, Luise Brann, Selma Burke, Letterio Calapai, Eugene Chodorow, Francis Criss, Stuart Davis, Adolf Dehn, Virginia Dehn, Jose de Rivera, George Pearse Ennis, Philip Evergood, Eugenie Gershoy, Bertram Goodman, Arshile Gorky, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Donal Hord, Joseph Hovell, William Karp, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Edward Laning, Julian Levi, Audrey McMahon, Elizabeth Olds, Anton Refregier, Will Shuster, William Zorach, and others.
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.
Other subjects documented include federal and community art centers in eleven states, most extensively Washington State; other WPA projects such as the Federal Theater Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Writers' Project; buildings decorated with FAP artwork; art processes as demonstrated by FAP artists; special events; and people involved with the FAP, including director Holger Cahill.
One folder contains images that appear to have been taken by Berenice Abbott for the exhibition "Changing New York," (1935) for the Museum of the City of New York in collaboration with the WPA.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Federal Art Project (FAP) was one of the Depression-era work-relief programs of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). 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.


The collection was anonymously donated to the Archives of American Art in the late 1950s.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Walton Family Foundation.