Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Morris




WPA, art, propaganda, relief, Great Depression


Created under the umbrella program called the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project (FAP) was a unique program that attempted to put struggling artists back to work and aimed to preserve artistic skill in American society. This thesis examines the efficacy and legacy of the Federal Art Project by examining the legitimacy of the criticisms levied against the FAP, the effect the FAP was able to have on the American public and arts community, and closes by examining the findings of these claims within the context of a collection of local FAP paintings. While producing an artistic legacy that has become widely appreciated, the program has also been criticized that by paying artists to produce artwork that reinforced proud American themes, the Federal Government was using the Project to mass-produce pro-American propaganda to advance its own agenda. Through the lens of a collection of Federal Art Project artwork from a nowclosed Schenectady hospital, as well as records of the FAP from the National Archives, this project argues that the goals in the own words of the leaders of this program show their commitment to the arts and those in need of relief. If there was ever any intent to influence public opinion, it was only to change the relationship between the American people and art for the benefit of both parties, never the leaders themselves. The American public, including citizens, artists, and critics, were supportive of the FAP and what they produced, as well as believing they offered genuine benefit to society. The lasting legacy they provide today continues to benefit the art community and the American people.

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