Until 2020, the Works Progress Administration, a Great Depression–era government program that gave billions of dollars to artists during the 1930s, was largely the stuff of high-school U.S. history courses. But it didn’t take long for it to become the source of fascination within the art world once the pandemic struck the U.S. and Europe. In late March of last year, a mere two weeks after lockdown began in most places, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist called for a government relief program of the WPA’s scale. (So far, none has sprung up.) One month later, art historian Jody Patterson wrote in an ARTnews essay that the WPA’s “aim of radical inclusivity and accessibility—in which art benefits more people, rather than fewer—should not be the distant vision of a past generation.” Government funding for the arts—rarely, if ever, a sexy topic—hadn’t seemed this interesting in ages.
With all this renewed attention being … Read the rest