WPA and Arts Advocacy

I haven’t organized any official field trips for art and I’ve been at Randall a few years already. I am changing that this year! Every Randall student will be heading to the Chazen this spring. Each grade level is studying different things this spring based on what they will focus on for their field trip.

The 5th graders study American history in their classroom curriculum so they will be focusing on the Works Progress Administration or WPA art exhibit at the Chazen. They will be studying various WPA artists over the second semester (Romare Bearden was also a WPA artist) but we started this larger theme by creating US Postage Stamps honoring African-American women.

Students started by learning a little about The New Deal created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal was a series of economic programs that involved presidential orders or laws passed by Congress during the first term of President FDR. It was a response to the Great Depression to create jobs for the unemployed and poor to help the economy recover to normal levels. Some of the gifted and talented students made some connections to issues that have been in the news recently.

Part of the WPA was the Federal Art Project which focused on commissioning artists for public art. Some say over 200,000 separate pieces of art were commissioned from 1935 to 1943. Many famous artists were part of this project including Romare Bearden, Jackson Pollack, John Steuart Curry, Arshile Gorky, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Olds, Loiuse Nevelson, Mark Rothko, Augusta Savage, Grant Wood and many more. As 3rd graders, they learned about John Steuart Curry and his murals right here on the UW campus.

The Chazen has a special exhibition that was installed February 16th and will be up until April 28th honoring these WPA artists.

“The Public Works of Art Project was the first federal program to support the arts. In 1934 the PWAP employed thousands of artists to paint regional, recognizable subjects—from portraits to cityscapes and street scenes to landscapes and rural life. This exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary of the PWAP, presenting 56 vibrant paintings from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection.” -Chazen website

Read more about the exhibition from the Wisconsin State Journal and their connection to recent events to funding cuts for the arts.

Exhibit of Depression-era art is illustrative comparison as state cuts public funding for arts

“The money Wisconsin will spend this year on the arts — 15 cents per capita, compared with $5.77 in first-ranked Minnesota — reflects a 67 percent cut in funding to the Wisconsin Arts Board in 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker folded that statewide arts agency into the Department of Tourism. (Wisconsin’s Percent for Art program, in which 0.2 percent of a public building project was devoted to public art, also was dismantled that year.) -WSJ

arts imageWisconsin ranks 46th in arts funding. I’m hoping you’ve been able to see how important the arts are to education through my blog. Please contact your representatives and let them know how important the arts are! Don’t forget to let the school board know as well. They are in charge of art education funding right here in our Madison schools.

I’ve gone on an arts advocacy tangent, I know. But it’s important. Back to the students! Check out the next post for more on their WPA project.

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