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Public Works of Art Project

Coit Tower Mural, 1934
Maxine Albro, California (mural), 1934, Coit Tower, San Francisco
Astronomer's Monument at Griffith Observatory, 1934

The Public Works of Art Project was a program to employ artists, as part of the New Deal, during the Great Depression. It was the first such program, running from December 1933 to June 1934. It was headed by Edward Bruce, under the United States Treasury Department and paid for by the Civil Works Administration.[1]


  • Purpose and Scope of the PWAP 1
  • San Francisco PWAP 2
  • Griffith Observatory's Astronomers Monument 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Purpose and Scope of the PWAP

The purpose of the PWAP was "to give work to artists by arranging to have competent representatives of the profession embellish public buildings."[2] Artists were told that the subject matter had to be related to the "American scene". Artworks from the project were shown or incorporated into a variety of locations, including the White House and House of Representatives.[2][3]

Artists participating in the project were paid wages of $38 – $46.50/week.[4] Participants were required to be professional artists, and in total, 3,749 artists were hired, and 15,663 works were produced.[3]

The project was succeeded by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.[3]

San Francisco PWAP

The largest of the projects sponsored by the PWAP were the murals in Jose Moya del Pino, Otis Oldfield, Frederick E. Olmsted, Suzanne Scheuer, Ralph Stackpole, Edward Terada, Frede Vidar, Clifford Wight, and Bernard Zakheim. After a majority of the murals were completed, the Big Strike of 1934 shut down the Pacific Coast. Though it has been claimed that allusions to the event were subversively included in the murals by some of the artists, in fact the murals were largely completed before the strike began and none of those that were not completed by that time show any reference to the strike.[5]

Griffith Observatory's Astronomers Monument

Another significant project funded by PWAP is the Astronomers Monument at Academy Awards. On November 25, 1934 (about six months prior to the opening of the Observatory), a celebration took place to mark completion of the Astronomers Monument. The only "signature" on the Astronomers Monument is "PWAP 1934" referring to the program which funded the project and the year it was completed.

See also


  1. ^ "History of the New Deal Art Projects". - New Deal Art During the Great Depression. Retrieved July 29, 2005. 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Elizabeth. "1934: A New Deal for Artists". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Adler, Jerry. "1934: The Art of the New Deal". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Mahoney, Eleanor. "The Public Works of Art Project in Washington State". Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Masha Zakheim, Coit Tower, San Francisco: Its History and Art, 2nd edn., 2009

Further reading

  • Pohl, Frances K. (2008). Framing America. A Social History of American Art. New York: Thames & Hudson.  
  • Contreras, Belisario R. (1983). Tradition and Innovation in New Deal Art. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses. 
  • O'Connor, Francis V., ed. (1973). Art for the Millions: Essays from the 1930s by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project. Boston: New York Graphic Society. 
  • "1934: A New Deal for Artists" is an exhibition featuring artworks from the Public Works of Art Project at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This site contains a slide show, public programs, and recent news stories
  • Public Works of Art Project, video

External links

  • The Living New Deal Project, a digital database of the lasting effects of the New Deal founded in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley (including an interactive map featuring detailed information on public artworks created as a part of the New Deal.
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