Federal Art Project By Pocock, Antonia
The Federal Art Project (FAP) was a branch of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a work relief agency established in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Second New Deal. Aimed at mitigating unemployment during the Great Depression, the WPA hired 8.5 million Americans for public works projects, focused mainly on infrastructure improvements. The WPA’s Federal Project Number One—which comprised the FAP, the Federal Writers’ Project, Federal Theater Project, Federal Music Project, and Historical Records Survey—subsidized the creative activities of 40,000 artists, writers, actors, and musicians. The FAP commissioned 5,000 visual artists to paint murals in public buildings; create easel paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings that were displayed in traveling exhibitions; teach in newly established Community Art Centers; document the activities of the WPA photographically; and design posters promoting New Deal policies. In addition to providing financial aid to destitute artists, the FAP aimed to preserve their skills and encourage a thriving American artistic tradition at a time when there were few private commissions. Though it operated nationwide, the FAP was concentrated in New York City, where 3,000 artists participated in the project, including many who went on to achieve international recognition after World War II as part of the Abstract Expressionist movement. By 1941, the FAP was limited to the production of war propaganda and training aids, and in 1943, President Roosevelt terminated all WPA projects.