Friday, November 05, 2010

WPA Then... Now?

“We were all young, and there was no such animal at the time as a master of fine arts degree, so the WPA really amounted to a graduate program in art. It was really the first art community I was ever aware of.” – Peter Busa, artist

Roughly, $1.38 then is equal to about $21.57, now. WPA artists were paid $23.86/week (about $350/week in 2010 dollars). A loft in NYC, during the 1930’s, typically cost $20/month. Artists were provided with government-purchased supplies, with the assumption that roughly 20% would be stolen for personal use.

The last few days, I have been reading about the WPA and how it benefited artists during the Great Depression. Visual artists were divided into two groups: muralists and easel painters. A muralist worked within a group, on a preset-project. Easel painters worked from their studio (on whatever project/design of their choosing) and had to deliver a new piece of artwork to the local WPA office once every 4-6 weeks. The WPA office owned and indefinitely stored the works (they have since, obviously, been placed in public collections). In essence, the WPA spear-headed the Modern Art movement, acting as its original patron; and when you think about the contemporary value of work by the Abstract Expressionists of this era… the government made a ridiculously smart investment. - North

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