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HISTORY TOPICS

WPA Art Project

Residences, Below Tenth Street Bridge, Minneapolis, 1939 by Syd Fossum. Location no. AV1978.95The Work Progress Administration (WPA) was one of the "alphabet agencies" of the New Deal, the broad sweeping social and economic experiment created by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first term in office during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It included a construction unit and three other agencies: the Federal Art Project, the Federal Writers' Project, and the Federal Theater Project.

Minnesota artists worked on several publicly funded art programs, including the Public Works of Art Project (1933-1934) and the WPA Federal Art Project (1935-1943). Under these programs, artists were paid to produce paintings, prints, murals, and sculptures for display in public buildings. They worked in realistic styles and chose familiar subjects-cityscapes, farm scenes, people at work and play-to create a portrait of Minnesota life in the 1930s. Among the prominent and prolific artists who participated in the projects were Clement Haupers, Miriam Ibling, and Syd Fossum.

GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:

  • Accomplishments: Minnesota Art Projects in the Depression Years: Essay and Catalog, by Nancy A. Johnson.
    [Duluth, Minn.: Tweed Museum of Art, 1976].
    MHS call number: Reading Room N8838 .J64.
  • The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s, by Matthew Baigell.
    New York: Praeger, [1974].
    MHS call number: ND212 .B28.
  • Art for a Democracy: The WPA's Art Education Programs in Minnesota, 1935-1943, by Susan Ray Euler.
    Ph.D. dissertation (University of Minnesota), 1990.
    MHS call number: N8838 .E85 1992.
  • Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, by Marlene Park and Gerald E. Markowitz.
    Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984.
    MHS call number: Reading Room N8838 .P37 1984.
  • "Joint Venture or Testy Alliance?: The Public Works of Art Project in Minnesota, 1933-34," by Thomas O'Sullivan.
    In Great Plains Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2 (spring 1989): pp. 89-99.
    MHS call number: F591 .G762 v.9:2.
  • The New Deal Art Projects: An Anthology of Memoirs, edited by Francis V. O'Connor.
    Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1972.
    MHS call number: N8838 .N4.
  • The New Deal for Artists, by Richard D. McKinzie.
    Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973.
    MHS call number: N8838 .M32.
  • A New Deal for the Arts, by Bruce I. Bustard.
    Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, in association with Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997.
    MHS call number: NX735 .B87 1997.
  • Posters of the WPA, by Christopher DeNoon.
    Los Angeles: Wheatley Press, c1987.
    MHS call number: NC1807.U5 D46 1987.
  • "The WPA Federal Art Project in Minnesota: A Job and A Movement," by Thomas O'Sullivan.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 53, no. 5 (spring 1993).
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.53:5, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
  • "The WPA Federal Art Projects in Minnesota, 1935-1943," by Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 53, no. 5 (spring 1993).
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.53:5, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).

PRIMARY RESOURCES:

  • Victor A. Christgau Papers.
    This archival collection details Christgau's service as administrator of Minnesota's Works Progress Administration from 1935-1938.
    MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks — filed alphabetically under Christgau, Victor A. — for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 26 boxes, but not all relate to this topic), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Clement B. Haupers and Clara Gardner Mairs Papers.
    Correspondence and other papers of St. Paul artists Clement Haupers and Clara Gardner Mairs. Haupers was the Minnesota state director of the Federal Art Project of the Work Projects Administration (1933-1943).
    MHS call number: M526 (there are 4 reels of microfilm of boxes 104) and P1615 (box 5 has not been microfilmed); see the green Manuscripts Notebooks — filed under M526 for the microfilm and under P1615 for the rest — for a detailed list of contents.
    Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Inter-library Loan.
  • Minnesota Living History: Clement Haupers.
    Osseo, Minn.: Independent School District No. 279, 1982.
    Interview with artist Clement Haupers, who discusses his involvement in the Federal Art Project, 1935-1943.
    MHS call number: Videotape 76 (1 12-minute color videocassette).
  • Minnesota Works Progress/Work Projects Administration.
    • Accomplishments, Minnesota Art Project, Work Projects Administration.
      [Minnesota?: s.n., 194-].
      MHS call number: N8838 .M682 1940z.
    • Publications of the Minnesota Works Progress Administration and the Minnesota Work Projects Administration.
      St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1983.
      Microfilm collection of various publications issued by the Minnesota WPA, 1935-1940.
      MHS call number: Microfilm 717.
  • Senior Citizens in Art with Chris Matteson: Clement Haupers.
    St. Louis Park, Minn.: Northern Cablevision, Inc., 1981.
    Interview with Clement Haupers, who discusses his art career, his work with the Federal Art Project, and the exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society, "Clement Haupers: Six Decades of Art in Minnesota."
    MHS call number: Videotape 39 (1 35-minute color videocassette).
  • WPA Murals in Minnesota Buildings.
    Compiled by University Art Museum, University of Minnesota. Views of surviving WPA murals in public buildings, institutions, and schools throughout Minnesota, including Rochester, Faribault, White Bear Lake, Chisholm, International Falls, Caledonia, Wabasha, Milaca, Sebeka, Windom, and the Minneapolis Armory.
    MHS call number: I.77 (in the A-V Collection); see the navy blue Collections Container List Notebooks for a list of slides (there are 66 slides).
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.
  • The following WPA sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: