Art for the People

Story by: CARLOS ALICEA / Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson

Photo by: OBADIAH FULLER / Parkway West High School

Some of the Work Progress Administration art works on display.

Eleven billion dollars. Ceated one million projects and employed about eight million people through the Work Progress Administration(WPA). This phenomenon occurred from 1935 to 1943 under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whois responsible for the creation of The New Deal. The New Deal was a landmark bill that created programs to provide work for Americans. One program created is the Federal Arts Project (FAP) which provided work to artist in the areas of art production, art instruction and art research.

The work took place in hospitals, schools and government buildings. It also created posters for the WPA. These pieces of art were a huge impact at the time, but in later years have become a forgotten memory. The posters hold huge significance in our society and deserve to be appreciated.

Today, the mission to rresurrect WPA  posters is being lead by Ennis Carter. At 46 years of age, Ms. Carter is  the Founding Director of Social Impact Studios, who are currently installing the a main exhibit that features the  WPA posters .

The goal of the exhibit is to showcase the values and memories that are held in the pieces of art that the government didn’t record or archive. The project that led to the posters was paid for by the taxpayers money, in other words, our money, why shouldn’t they have been recorded? Hundreds of fascinating posters with thousands of magnificent stories are held in the artwork. “Keeping it alive is a huge part of my work,” Ms. Carter told  me as she explained her goal with the exhibit.

Artwork is part of our culture, history and society. These WPA posters are a type of visual art which gives off a more symbolic and emotional image. The importance of these posters is greater than what it seems. “These posters are old but the values still exist today.”  Ms.Carter’s passion about her work is evident in all she says.

The values portrayed in the work were those of health, conservation and education. The health care expanded by creating more hospitals and doctors. They stressed to conserve the environment with recycling, reforestation and preserving national parks. Education spread by creating more schools and programs to educate kids and adults. These values are still prevalent today with healthcare benefits, pollution and educational cash cuts. These posters bring all of this to life with silk-screening images that show the relevance of American issues from yesterday and today.

One of the posters contains an image of burning books with a Nazi symbol in the flames. On the bottom of the image it stated, “We Read Books Instead Of Burning Them.” This poster was a favorite because not only did it oppose the Nazi’s and their actions but supported the conservation of books.  Another poster contained an image of two rams standing on a mountaintop with the sun setting behind them. The caption read “National Parks preserve Wild Life” which I found to be great. Americans would slaughter beautiful creatures,  but with the posters and conservation laws the creatures were able to be saved and preserved. If you would like to see the images for yourself look it up under ‘WPA posters’ on any search engine and they all should appear.

The government’s choice to create the FAP project was a great one. Their choice to not keep an archive of it was not fair to the people. Ms. Carter’s choice to create an archive is a noble one. The posters are a great way to learn of our past, our hardships and our triumphs.

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