Connecticut State Library with state seal

The WPA Art Inventory

 

 

In the 2007 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, Representative David McCluskey (20th District) proposed a bill to appropriate money to develop a “catalogue of Connecticut Federal Art Project Artists and their work.”  Representative McCluskey had read an article in the Winter 2006/2007 issue of the Hog River Journal by Amy L. Trout of the New Haven Museum and Historical Society, entitled “The Federal Art Project in New Haven:  The Era, Art and Legacy.”[1]  Trout contended in a footnote that there was no “definitive catalogue of Connecticut FAP artists and their artwork.”  She observed that the Connecticut State Library “has probably the most complete listings of artists” in Record Group 033, Records of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) in Connecticut.[2]  The bill was not passed but the General Assembly appropriated $150,000 for the State Library to compile an art inventory.  State Librarian Kendall Wiggin oversees the project, and State Archivist Mark Jones is project coordinator.

 

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the WPA in order to put people back to work.  For the first time in the nation’s history, the federal government hired hundreds of artists and paid them an hourly wage for art that was pleasing to the eye and that could inspire faith in democracy.[3]  In Connecticut, the headquarters of the State FAP was in New Haven.

 

Staff has entered data from the artists’ work cards for each piece of work into an ACCESS database, and is also compiling detailed biographical files for most of the known 150 artists and for those discovered during the project.  A consultant will organize around 1,000 black and white negatives of Connecticut FAP art work at the New Haven Museum and Historical Society and create a database.

 

Since approximately 5,000 pieces of art were produced under the FAP, we believe that many of them are still in Connecticut.[4]  In several towns, there has been revived interest in preserving FAP murals.  However, much more was done including easel art, sculpture, crafts, prints, posters, signs, and photographs.

 

We need your help in locating extant WPA art in order to produce a comprehensive inventory.  We do not intend to take art back to Hartford.  Staff intends to make a record of surviving FAP art and shall request permission to make a digital record of each piece for our inventory files.

 

Connecticut WPA Artists

 

"A Depression-Era Mystery" 

 

 

If you would like to help, please contact Mark Jones at mjones@cslib.org or (860) 757-6511 with questions, stories, remembrances, and recent sightings.


 

[1] Vol. V/No. 1, pp. 26-31.

[2] Ibid, p. 31. n. 10.  From 1935-39, WPA meant, “Works Progress Administration.”  In 1939, amid criticism of the program, “Progress” was changed to “Projects” in order to stress that useful work was being accomplished.

[3]A. Joan Saab, For the Millions; American Art and Culture Between the Wars (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

[4] A final report in August 1942 of the Connecticut FAP showed the following figures of production:  107 murals at 20,983 square feet; 3,464 pieces of easel art; 166 sculptures, 171 prints, 796 signs, 217 posters; 10,768 photographs and 2, 929 negatives; 1,519 crafts; 460 pieces for the Index of American Design; 200 stencillings; and 2,176 frames.

Prepared by the State Archives, Connecticut State Library.