The New Deal and the WPA

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) became the New Deal's largest employment agency. Under the WPA, the Federal Art Project employed tens of thousands of artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, actors, and dancers.

Many other government agencies also funded artistic endeavors. The Resettlement Administration (produced documentary photographs of WPA projects and the government's efforts to relieve the social impact on those who had become refugees within their own country. The Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture commissioned post office murals.

Not only did this New Deal for the arts put Americans to work but it also celebrated American workers and their values as well as the nation's history, talents, and diversity.

Arts projects did not necessarily ennoble ordinary lives, but these lives became the subjects for plays, interviews, murals, and photographs, producing a record of how the Great Depression affected the American people.

Independent artists such as John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, and John Ford, who directed the film version of Steinbeck's novel in 1940, found creative inspiration in the hard times of the Great Depression, producing works that endure as remarkable examples of the socially concious imagination.