Depression Era Art: The Federal Arts Project
Lesson Plan: Themes
Illinois State Board of Education Goals and Standards addressed:
Social Science:
Early High School: 15.E.4a: Explain why government might interfere in a market economy.(WPA)
16.B.4: Identify political ideas that have dominated U.S. historical eras (New
Visual Art:
27.B: Understand how the arts shape and reflect history, society, and everyday life. (Early Elem.-
27.B.1, Late Elem.-27.B.2, Middle-27.B.3, Early High-27.B.4a and b, and Late High- 27.B.5)
Purpose: to help the user understand the themes of the WPA/FAP art programs by looking at this
Web site and its resources
Objectives: the student will, after having gone through the material about the WPA arts programs,
be able to
explain or demonstrate the basic themes that artists used for subject matter and
choose a typical subject from life today relating to one of those themes (American
scene, workers, social realism, modern sensibility, stolen moments)
produce a work of art showing a scene on this chosen theme.
Grade Levels: 7-10, but can be adapted downward to K-6.
Time Required: one or two 50-minute periods
Materials: sketch paper, pencil, pen, marker, ink, charcoal, pastel, paints of choice drawing paper,
picture mats for presentation
Motivation: After having viewed the Web site, its artworks, and text, and other resources according
to age and ability, the students will discuss the subject matter that artists chose to depict.
Compare topics of life today that are similar to those depiected during the
List the purposes of making representational art (illustration, expression, protest,
comment, documenting).
Point out how artists' attitudes toward their subject shows in the works (nostalgia,
anger, happiness).
Brainstrom and list some topics that would make topical paintings about society
Talk about choices of media students could make to achieve specific moods, amounts
of details, overall effects.
Procedure: Students will:
choose a subject to depict.
choose an appropriate medium to help tell their story.
sketch their composition, perhaps in thumbnail size, until they produce a composition
that works best.
transfer that sketch to a final drawing paper of their choice.
finish the art work.