The crash of the stock market in 1929 initiated a chain of events that crippled the American art scene. As money from private patrons and museums evaporated, artists joined the nations staggering number of unemployed workers. The toils and triumphs of a wide range of individual artists and art organizationsdocumented in letters, photographs, journals, business records and oral-history interviews at the Smithsonians Archives of American Art
reveal how American artists survived against the odds. The exhibition will be on display from Aug. 10 to Nov. 8 in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Smithsonians Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
Beginning in 1933, government-sponsored art programs provided work relief for artists, employing them as muralists, painters, sculptors, art educators and researchers. New Deal programs, such as the Civil Works Administrations Public Works of Art Program, the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Works Progress Administrations Federal Art Project, employed artists and brought art to every corner of the United States. Post offices, courthouses, schools, hospitals and prisons were filled with paintings of American life. 1929 to 1939 was also decade of social change that accelerated the rise of unions and spirited art organizations.
In 1963, the Archives of American Art began an ambitious collecting initiative to gather and preserve the primary sources of the role of the federal government and the arts. The fruits of this initiative serve as the foundation of this exhibition, highlighting the voices of supporters and critics of the New Deal programs.