A Living for Us All: Artists and the WPA

March 26–July 24, 2022
Floor 2

During the Great Depression (1929–1939), the United States government provided vital aid to thousands of artists, public art projects, and education initiatives through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Drawn primarily from SFMOMA’s allocation of WPA work, this exhibition explores the variety of approaches that artists embraced in this period to examine their communities and circumstances. Working in painting, photography, printmaking, and even weaving, some focused on themes of labor and daily life, while others turned to abstraction or surrealism. All engaged in aesthetic experiments and formal innovations made possible by the program’s financial support. Advancing the radical idea that art is a public resource, the WPA offered a new model for the artist’s role in society.