Federal Art Project of the WPA

The United States was mired in the Great Depression when President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a series of federal economic and relief programs collectively known as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Among the many projects overseen by the WPA were the Public Works of Art Project (1933-34) and the Federal Art Project (1935-43). Designed to put unemployed artists to work, these programs provided opportunities in art instruction and research, and funded the creation of murals and sculptures in public spaces including schools, local government buildings, and parks.

New Orleans was one of the Federal Art Project's designated regional offices. In September 1940 the branch moved to 718 Toulouse Street, the use of which was donated by wealthy art partons General L. Kemper Williams and his wife Leila Moore Williams, who had purchased the property in 1938. Teaching rooms and galleries were set up, and with American entry into World War II in December 1941, artists began producing art for the local war effort. These colorful posters promoted awareness of national security and rationing, and encouraged good diet and health habits. Soon after the war ended, General and Mrs.Williams restored 718 Toulouse to serve as their home, and today it is on tour as part of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

The Historic New Orleans Collection
533 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
hnoc.org - (504)598-7147

Federal Art Project of the WPA, Headquarters, 718 Toulouse St; 1939; photoprint gift of the
New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana Division, 1981.23.1