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The Works Progress Administration: Fostering Artistic Communities

In 1935, President Franklin D.

Roosevelt created the Works Progress
Administration (WPA) as a means of
combating staggering depression-era
unemployment rates.
Within the
WPAs creation of more than 8.5
million jobs, employment in the arts
was included and valued. In 1935, a
division of the WPA called Federal
Project Number One established the
Federal Art Project, the Federal Music
Project, and the Federal Theatre
Project. These agencies created jobs
for unemployed creative workers
within cities and towns across
By creating jobs in the arts, the
WPA promoted awareness of and
the arts
communities throughout the nation.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Courtesy of the Smithsonian

Archives of American Art

Public exhibitions and works of art, such as Ryah Ludinss 1937 mural at Bellevue
Hospital (right), employed artists and encouraged artistic exposure within local


The Federal Art Project (FAP) offered
employment to out-of-work artists through
the creation of public works of art and
opportunities to bring visual arts education
to individual communities throughout the
United State. Between 1935 and 1943, the
FAP funded works including 2,566 murals
and 17,744 sculptural pieces, many of which
can still be seen in cities across America.
In addition to the creation of works of
art, the project sought to expose the public
to creativity and artistic expression through
first-hand experiences. The FAP funded art
exhibitions in small and large cities, and
provided teachers and resources to host free
and low-cost community art classes. Through
the works of the FAP, artists supported
themselves and their creative practices by
sharing and encouraging artwork within


From 1935-1939 the Federal Music Project offered employment opportunities to
musicians and music teachers in America. The program funded musical performances at
little or no cost to audiences and broadened the availability of musical education courses to
developing musicians. While putting existing musicians to work through performances and
teaching, the program also exposed the public to a wider range of musical performance,
and encouraged citizens to pursue music as a pastime or career.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The FMP employed artists and
encouraged arts in communities
through music education and
affordable public performances.


Between 1935 and 1939, The Federal Theatre Project (FTP) encouraged employment in
performing arts communities across the country. The program created departments to
develop theatre companies and school theatre programs within towns and cities. These
programs employed individuals in a range of roles that included actors, directors, office
managers and even technical staff such as janitors. The FTP provided funding for both the
creative and technical roles required for theatres to thrive. Providing jobs and affordable
public performances allowed the FTP to promote appreciation for theatre in communities
across the nation.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

performances that employed theatre
companies and exposed audiences to
the performing arts.