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The Work of Art: The Federal Art Project, 1935–1943

January 28, 2025 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

The Work of Art: The Federal Art Project, 1935–1943 presents a remarkable group of artworks that reflect the creative efforts of artists working under difficult circumstances.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiated a series of nationwide support programs for the visual arts. The largest and most ambitious program, the Federal Art Project (FAP), put more than 10,000 artists to work. Their artworks, in turn, decorated municipal spaces, circulated through exhibitions and were allocated to institutions across the country.

In 1943, the Saint Louis Art Museum received 256 prints, drawings, watercolors and paintings. Approximately half of those were intended for use at the People’s Art Center, the city’s first interracial community art center. The group included the first works by African American artists to enter the museum’s collection.

This exhibition draws from the particular makeup of the FAP collection at SLAM to examine how art works to bridge communities near and far. From the vantage point of St. Louis, The Work of Art asks: Who was supported as an artist? For which audiences and what purposes was art made? And what does it look like to picture a nation through the eyes of artists working across its breadth?

The FAP provided expanded opportunities for professional artists, students and viewers alike. Through its display of work made by African American, Asian American and female-identifying artists, this exhibition celebrates the fundamental idea of art being made by and for everyone.

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