Teachers' Orientation Pages to:
Depression Era Art
The Exhibit and Collection
The works in The Depression Era Art online exhibit are part
of a traveling exhibit of WPA works in the collection of the
Illinois State Museum. The exhibit is an historical look at
Illinois artists in the 1930s and 1940s who worked for the
Works Progress Administration Fine Arts Program. The
images of the artworks not only reflect what styles were
popular at that time, but also reflect what was happening to
people during the Depression and how they and the artists
felt about it. The WPA exhibit will reopen at our Lockport
in January of 2000.
The staff researched the artists lives using published sources
and by making phone calls, Web searches, and directory searches. Some of the WPA artists may not
have continued their art after the WPA Programs closed. Others were perhaps not shown enough to
be tracked by art historians. Most of the artists may be deceased. We will pursue any leads we
receive to add to the biographical information.
The questions were the main text in this module, which is used to discuss the elements of art as used
by artists in different media. Other text might be a hint about the visual elements, a short biography,
when available, or a note that points out an issue of the Depression, a quote by an artist, or a note on
the style. Each of these could be the basis of a discussion of all the art; the questions are a starting
point and do not have short, easy answers. It may take several minutes of the viewer's talking to
himself about it to start getting new insights into a work-the Aha!
Teachers can use the images when teaching social studies, history, language arts, and art. The images
are not only illustrations of historical events or eras, but also intimate interpretations of people,
events, places, and feelings. Teachers could present each one or each set as a discussion topic about
history, about art as social comment, and about art as personal statements.