Revisited Online: May 26, 2020 – Ongoing
Organized by Rory Padeken, associate curator

Arts For All

  • Image

    Don Freeman
    On the Fly Rail Above the Stars, 1938
    Lithograph, 9 1/2 × 12 inches
    Museum purchase with funds from the Friends of the Museum

Under the auspices of the Federal Art Project (1935 – 43), printmaking experienced a renaissance during the Great Depression. Graphic artists, as well as painters, sculptors, musicians, playwrights, dancers, and writers, were paid a weekly stipend to create works of art for local communities, libraries, public institutions, and government buildings. Artists working in lithography, for example, helped produce two thousand poster editions from 1935 to 1936; about two million prints in total were circulated nationally. With the establishment of a graphic arts division in 1936, five printmaking workshops were set-up across the United States. They integrated artists into local communities where they raised awareness of timely issues creating artworks of social relevancy. While the Federal Art Project was rather short-lived, dissolving after America’s entry into World War II, the legacy and impact of the program are evident in the hundreds of thousands of works of art on display in museums, libraries, and community gathering places across the country. There are numerous artworks on public display throughout the Bay Area, including the stained glass windows at Herbert Hoover Middle School in San José, and murals at Beach Chalet, Coit Tower, and Rincon Center in San Francisco.