Works Progress Administration collection

Inclusive Dates: 
circa 1938–1943

This record forms part of the Chicago’s Art-Related Archival Materials: A Terra Foundation Resource project funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. For this project, the Archives surveyed archival repositories throughout the Chicago region to identify art-related materials contained in their holdings. While the Archives of American Art does not own any of the materials described herein, information about those materials and links to the original repositories have been included when available.

Descriptive Summary

166 photographs of individual artworks produced for the Illinois Art Project, including murals, easel paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, and other mediums. A few photographs show a project installation at Cook County Hospital showing various artists’ works, work in progress in the project studios, the Federal Art Gallery at 211 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and the South Side Community Art Center. The collection also includes 4 folders containing a minimal amount of information about the Illinois Art Project.


Biographical Historical Note

During the Great Depression, the federal government created a series of work relief programs to employ artists and to support art for the general public. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was established in 1934; in 1935, it was replaced by the larger Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (FAP/WPA), which continued until 1942. Through these programs, artists created numerous easel paintings, prints, sculptures, and murals for public buildings, especially schools, libraries, hospitals, and post offices. Graphic design was also part of the program. The programs were particularly active in Illinois.

Additional Notes

Related collections: Work[s] Progress Administration Federal Art Project Photograph Collection, 1930s, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago; U.S. Work Projects Administration, Illinois, poster collection, ca. 1930s-1940s, Chicago History Museum.