|John V. Bloom mural in Tipton, IA post office|
I'm so lucky! There are, of course, many, many things that make me feel lucky in life. But right now I'm referring to the fact that I get to travel around the Midwest learning about and photographing things I never before knew existed (or may have taken for granted).
|Moline, Illinois post office (currently for sale for $400,000)|
That's the way I felt with today's Etsy post
on the Works Progress Administration
(WPA) era. I knew a little about it (and frankly I still know just a little about it, because it turns out there is so much to know). During Franklin Roosevelt's time more than 100 departments, known as the "Alphabet Agencies,
" were formed by the government to both provide work for people on relief (unemployed and supported by welfare).
These jobs included all kinds of artistic and recreational endeavors, as well as construction projects (many under the auspices of the Civilian Conservation Corps
—CCC). While I chose to focus on murals and buildings within driving distance of my home (and in the case of the boathouse above, within walking distance), I discovered that there are a plethora of WPA-era murals in post offices around Iowa
|Edward Millman mural in Moline, IL post office|
There are, of course, well known murals from this time period—those in San Francisco's Coit Tower
come to mind. But to learn that so many murals were painted for tiny post offices, and that most are still in existence, amazes me...to know that every day people are in the presence of artwork whose creation helped feed artist's families, while enabling artists
, and craftspeople of all sorts) to continue in their chosen line of work...and to know that the government valued those lines of work enough to support them, is nothing short of stunning.
There were certainly people who felt disdain for the New Deal and the Alphabet Agencies, but not so many that the programs didn't exist.
I've had a number of conversations with people about whether this kind of government work program could work today. What do you think? Why or why not?