Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
C. Blythe Ahlstrom
The number of Americans who did not suffer in some way from the depression of the thirties was small, indeed. This was a period of great travail for the United States and the entire world. However, it was also one of the most interesting and innovative periods in American history. President Franklin D. Roosevelt exhibited forceful and quick reactions to the economic and social problems besetting the nation. Not the least of these measures of mitigation was the Works Projects Administration and the inclusive WPA cultural projects. These projects contained an art program, a writers' program, a theatre program and a music program. The contributions of these programs were varied. A great deal of monetary value was produced by such respected Americans as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothco, Stuart Davis, Richard Wright and Vardis Fisher. Monetary return did not comprise the major value or design of the programs. The first priority centered on providing useful employment to unemployed and creative citizens. This employment program was unique in that it strived to place the unemployed artist in a position in which he could use his artistic talent. The sculptor was not forced to dig ditches or lay pipe. He was given a job that utilized his true vocation, such as work on Mount Rushmore or sculptures for a children's playground, or even the instruction of sculpturing to an eager class of adults. This was probably where the real value of the program became patent. The artist was able to regain his self-respect and continue in his work.
The state of Utah presented a useful example of the worth of WPA cultural programs. In a state as small and rural as Utah, a viable and workable program was effected. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that if the cultural programs were of value to Utah, the significance to the larger states and the rest of the nation cannot easily be dismissed.
Lashbrook, Lawrence G., "The Cultural Programs of the WPA: with Special Emphasis on the Federal Art Project" (1971). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 5047.