The WPA Mural Project: A Surprising Opportunity for Women Artists.

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Minna Citron. 1942. Horse Swapping Day. [oil on canvas]. USPS, Manchester, TN.

One part of The New Deal Program that I find particularly interesting is the murals that were commissioned as part of the Federal Art Project (FAP) under the WPA. The works were often installed in newly constructed post offices or other public buildings, and the program was responsible for returning thousands of artists back to work during the Depression years. According to the book Tennessee Post Office Murals one of the interesting things about this program was the way in which the artists were selected to do the work. In an effort to control favoritism and cronyism, there was a blind selection process, where artists submitted their ideas for the project anonymously, therefore their work was selected based on its merit alone. This opened up opportunities for women and artists of color that were otherwise limited to them in the Depression Era. As a result, there are a number of wonderful murals out there that were created by some famous, and some not so famous female artists.

In Tennessee alone, there are twenty-eight murals in TN post offices that were created as part of the FAP project. Ten of these were created by women. Knowing me, you probably see what is coming… I’ve started visiting post offices that contain the murals to see them for myself. There’s something inspiring for me about standing in a Depression Era building viewing a piece of public art that also gives a sense of history of that time. Below you will find a list of the towns in TN with women’s murals, and I will include links to photos from my adventures as I get a chance to visit each of them. If you are curious if there might be a FAP mural near you, be sure to go check out the Living New Deal website, which is a fantastic database of nationwide New Deal projects. Keep exploring, and maybe I’ll see you out there.

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