Federal Arts Program


The following article is significant on the Federal support of the arts….


     Federal Arts Project

     By Jerre Mangione


     Audrey McMahon, who directed the Federal Art Project, was not exaggerating when she wrote: “Never in the history of any land has so much cultural progress been achieved in so brief a time as in the New Deal years.”

     Consider some of Federal One’s achievements:

     The Art Project embellished hundreds of public buildings throughout the nation with sculpture and murals. It also compiled the remarkable index of American design and established more than a hundred community art centers. Its easel painters (among them such future giants as Pollock, de Kooning, Reinhart, Gorki, Stuart Davis) were able to develop their talents to the point where they were ultimately responsible for shifting the capital of art from Paris to New York

     The Theater Project operated 158 performing companies in 27 states, some in places where live theater had never been seen before. The freshness and vitality of its varied productions gave the theater of the thirties a much-needed shot in the arm and introduced the “Living Newspaper” stage technique for presenting social issues of national interest.

     The Music Project established 122 orchestras in 110 cities; they performed thousands of free concerts. The Project also provided free instruction in more than 250 music-teaching centers, and established laboratories where young composers could have their work performed and criticized by professionals.

     The Writers Project, which operated in every state, produced more than 1,000 books and pamphlets. Its monumental American Guide series gave the nation it first detailed self-portrait. Its extensive Life in America series produced the first black studies and hundreds of oral histories by ex-slaves. The project also served as a launching pad for such writers as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Loren Eiseley, Studs Terkel and Kenneth Rexroth.

     Ninety percent of Federal One’s personnel were men and women off the relief rolls who were paid meagerly (at salaries ranging from $45 to $100 a month) and gave the nation more than its money’s worth.

     In 1939 Congress killed the Theater Project and clipped the wings of the other three projects.

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