Date of Award

12-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Art and Design

First Advisor

Sloboda, Stacey

Second Advisor

Reinoehl, Angela

Abstract

New Deal Art Now offers a sampling of the breadth of the Works Progress Administration and Federal Art Projects (WPA/FAP), calling attention to the skills, histories, and social identities of an extraordinarily diverse spectrum of professional and amateur artists funded by the United States federal government during the Great Depression. The New Deal, a major economic stimulus initiative that ran from 1935-1943, included the Works Progress Administration Federal One Projects, encompassing fine art, music, theater, writing, and design. These projects provided economic support and cultural enrichment to hundreds of thousands of Americans, in the form of jobs, entertainment, and education in the arts. New Deal Art Now seeks to reframe a period of United States artistic production that is often narrowly cast in exhibitions and their related literature on the subject. The theme of diversity is explored through several critical lenses, such as questioning the relationship between art and artifact, considering that many creative works of the New Deal function as both. The majority of the exhibited artworks are juxtaposed against one another to challenge the designations that contemporary material culture traditionally assigns them. Showcasing 48 objects in total, the exhibits include painting, sculpture, educational models, archival film, and archival audio, which are juxtaposed alongside contemporary paintings, photography, and music, created in conjunction with this exhibition. By situating these works (as well as the very categories of amateur and professional, art and artifact, museum and archive, past and present) in productive relation to one another this exhibition argues for the significance of all of these works and artists to the diverse history of twentieth-century American art.

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