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art for the people


Readymade has a great article about the WPA and the creation of the Federal Art Project, launched by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression. As Steven Heller writes in the introduction "The FAP served a dual purpose: It gave unemployed artists work while demonstratively branding the virtues of the nation through rousing mass communication." Most posters were silkscreened, which explains the lack of photography and the simple typography (I love them all). 

The posters promoted all kinds of topics including basic hygiene, tourism, health topics, workplace safety, theater, education, public libraries, and community events. Though I feel a bit bad for the poor fellow who had to do the poster for venereal diseases.

Readymade then asked 5 artists to create a WPA inspired poster for today. My favorite comes from Nick Dewar, an illustrator who always makes me happy with his hand drawn type. (I had the pleasure of working with him once for an article I did at MS Living). You can download a large PDF version of his poster here.

Here are a few of my favorite WPA posters:





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Reader Comments (33)

these are so fun! i am so glad you shared.

02.5.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlove squalor

oh these are wonderful! how inspiring! Thanks for such a great find!

02.5.2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah jane

I really enjoyed this post. The downloadable pdfs are beautiful, as are the older posters. Where did you find the original WPA images? I'd like to see more.

02.5.2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

hello there! If you haven't seen the book "Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA" you should check it out. It was published just last year and it's quite wonderful!

02.6.2009 | Unregistered Commenterkindra

I love these posters. Mark and I pick up a lot of posters like these. Thanks for sharing!

02.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndi

Wonderful! I just ordered "Posters for the People" that Kindra in the comment above recommended. I'm enjoying your music too.

02.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLecia

Oh I just realized the music didn't come from your blog but another I had opened... in case you're wondering if your blog has a mind of its own :)

02.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLecia

These are great. I've loved WPA posters since I was a kid and had one about coughing and sneezing on people up in my room. I've always dreamed of having a living room full of framed WPAs. And what's neat to me is thinking of the artists who made these posters, maybe wondering if they were selling out, doing some 'stupid' poster just to make a dime, not knowing how long the art would endure. Most of them are giggle inducing but some, like the See America poster is nothing short of majestic! Thanks for posting these!

02.6.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjessica m

huge WPA lover. esp the national park posters. I have a few reprints tucked away somewhere that need to be framed. must do that.

and your parties are amazing.

Thanks for pointing that poster out! I have printed it and have it by my desk.

02.6.2009 | Unregistered Commenteralice

I love 'em! Thanks!

02.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJTay

Love the parks poster. The National Parks System has reprinted a whole series of them, and every time we visit a national park, my husband and I pick up a postcard from the set (which I've blogged about... I adore them). They're just gorgeous. Lovely post!

02.7.2009 | Unregistered Commentersulu-design

that last one is just perfect! i love how it makes america seems all mysterious and adventurous... x

02.8.2009 | Unregistered Commenteremil

i love all of these! such beautiful, clever design.

02.8.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlindsey clare

I absolutely love this post!
Thank you for sharing.

02.8.2009 | Unregistered Commenterabby

These posters are fab! Really enjoyed your blog.

02.9.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJane

Came over from Jodi's blog. Love this blog! Looking forward to following you!

02.11.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

The 1960s animation produced by artists under the WPA is some of my favorite of all time. It's great to see some of the graphic design.

02.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

What great posters. Thanks for sharing.

02.17.2009 | Unregistered Commentermavis

Do you still have the PDF for the "Simplicity" poster? The link no longer works and I'd love to print this off for my husband fir his 30th bday. (jana.neal@gmail.com)

11.8.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJana

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