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Africa and the African Diaspora

Schomburg Treasures: WPA Artwork

Harding Field
Harding Field, by Caroline Durieux, 1943

Part of FDR's New Deal, the Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 to provide paying jobs for the unemployed at every skill level. Workers built bridges, dams, roads, libraries, courthouses, schools, parks and gardens—and they created art. 

Some of that art took the form of murals, like the ones on view at the Harlem Hospital Center. Other smaller-scale works are in the collections of the Schomburg Center, right across the street.

Last year, the Schomburg held an exhibition to highlight its collection of WPA artworks. Images of these works are now available on the Digital Collections website.

The collection contains lithographs, etchings, and pastels showing allegorical scenes, cityscapes, portraits, etc., by Charles Alston, Nan Lurie, Riva Helfond, and others, many of which were produced at the Harlem Community Arts Center.

(The precursor to the WPA was the Public Works of Art Project, which commissioned another of the Schomburg's treasures: the Aaron Douglas murals. These are also on the website, and viewable in the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research & Reference Division.)

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