The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is proud to present Work, People, Art in partnership with the Illinois State Museum. The exhibition features 38 paintings, prints, and photographs made under the Federal Art Project (FAP) from the Illinois State Museum’s permanent collection.
During the Great Depression (1929-1939), the FAP supported out-of-work artists by providing commissions and relief programs. These efforts sought to restore America’s prosperity and hope at a time when over 20% of the American workforce was unemployed. The program employed more than five thousand artists in various art projects throughout the United States. The importance of the program went well beyond employment statistics. The FAP empowered artists to develop a diverse American aesthetic and bridged the gap between art and the American public by providing greater access to art through public art, art centers, and exhibitions. For artists, the FAP provided a weekly wage, art supplies, and exhibition opportunities in exchange for completed artwork. This arrangement permitted artists to make smaller, portable works in their studios or in workshops, which then allowed artists the freedom to experiment with a mix of realistic, the abstract, and the expressive styles, creating a hybrid of artistic styles that would inform American art history for many decades.
Most importantly, the project encouraged artists to portray the hopes and hardships of American life, giving voice and inspiration to a struggling nation during one of its darkest periods. Nearly 90 years later, these works speak to the struggles of contemporary Americans who are grappling Covid-19 pandemic, its accompanying political and economic repercussions, and an era of social upheaval.
Work, People, Art is organized by Doug Stapleton, Associate Curator of Art, from the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL. All works are from the museum’s permanent collection courtesy of the U.S. General Services Administration.
Opening Weekend: February 20 – 21, 2020
Image: Leon Garland, (American, b. 1896, Bobruisk, Russia, immigrated to U.S. 1917, d. 1941, Chicago, IL) The Blacksmith, 1943, Oil on canvas, Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum, 1943.16/910.13, FAP/WPA Allocation