Depression Era Art: The Federal Arts Project
Urban and Rural Life
Level: High School
to help the student understand life in urban and rural areas of the United States
during the Depression Era.
to help the student understand how art critics write about the elements of art
and technique that artists use to express their feelings in their work
The students will, after viewing the WPA unit online, and reading some of the offline
resources, be able to
¥ tell how the artist of their choice in the WP A online unit interpreted life on a farm
or in a city during the Depression by describing each element of the artwork that
illustrates facts that they read. (See Ideas for Talking about Artworks with Your
Students, http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/pdfs/cc_visual.pdf, and click on
Visual Thinking Skills.
tell how the artist of their choice used line, color,shape, space, or other ele-
ment,or a medium or technique to effectively express the subject of the artwork
print resources about life during the Depression
¥ pencils, pens, word processor
printout of one artwork image from the WPA online unit. Url
Discuss with the students what they know about life during the Depression in cities
and on farms(see resource list). Show an example of a Depression artwork, from
the WPA unit or from a book or print. Dialogue with the class about how the artist
gave a mood to the painting, expressed suffering, poverty, isolation, hope, inspira-
tion, etc., with the use of color, line, shape, or other element. This will be the model
for the activity. Summarize what has been discussed and what the students will
Students will choose an artwork to print out from the WPA on line unit.
They should have their print resources, such as the fiction and non-fiction from
the resource list, library books, text, etc., to refer to for facts.
¥ A list of art elements on the board or bulletin board can cue them to choose.
They may want to consult a partner.
¥ After a limited time for consultation and research,they should begin to write a
paragraph about how the artist interpreted the facts of the Depression.Then
they can be cued with a time to write about how the artist interpreted the theme
in an expressive way using elements of art and techniques.
¥ Continue the writing process with editing, drafts, and proofing until a presenta -
ble copy is completed.
The descriptions can be used as labels in a display. The entire project could be
combined as a book of student art criticism of the Depression.
The research element can be evaluated for accuracy of fact and thoroughness.
Does the information from the resources fit the artwork subject? Was the connection
The critique of the art elements is the third element. Did the student find the art ele-
ment(s)relevant to the artwork? Was the relationship to the message or mood of the
Time Required: 1 period on Web content and discussion,
1 period to write