Work[s] Progress Administration Federal Art Project photograph collection

Inclusive Dates: 

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

1 linear foot (2 boxes) and 1 portfolio of material consisting of photographic print images of the easel paintings, sculptures, and murals created under the sponsorship of the Works Progress Administration through the Federal Art Project in Illinois, the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, and the Illinois Craft Project. Although the majority of the artists represented in this collection were from the Chicago area, works by artists practicing in other regions, particularly in New York City, are also documented. Artists include Gertrude Abercrombie, Eldzier Cortor, Raphael Soyer, and numerous others. Many images show works exhibited at the WPA Artists Galleries, the Federal Art Gallery, and the Federal Art Project Sculpture Studios, Chicago.

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. The programs were particularly active in Illinois. The Illinois Craft Project supported the work of designers, especially craft and furniture makers. The South Side Community Art Center was one of several such centers established by the FAP (and the only one extant); it was created specifically to offer opportunities for art exhibition and education for African Americans in Chicago.

Additional Notes

Related collections: U.S. Work Projects Administration, Illinois, poster collection, Chicago History Museum; Works Progress Administration Collection, Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center Special Collections; Archives of the South Side Community Art Center, South Side Community Art Center.