Fifty American artists look back at the projects created during the New Deal, and make work that reflects the United States now.

From 1935 to 1943, the United States government funded a massive economic and cultural effort that redefined the way we see America. Called Federal Project No. 1, the initiative was administered by the Works Progress Administration, the ambitious New Deal agency that put millions to work during the Great Depression with public works programs like the construction of highways, bridges, dams, stadiums, and parks. And with the establishment of Federal Project No. 1, the government recognized that cultural producers also had a critical role to play in the nation’s recovery.

Artists with Federal Project funding fanned out across the states, recording oral h


On the Road in Search of Soul

The black Southerners who joined the Great Migration wanted to leave oppression behind—not their beloved family recipes. Their traditions would redefine American cooking.

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The Pioneer Women

For young women who grow up on the family farm, there comes a time to make a choice—should I stay or should I go?

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Life Beyond Bars

The Works Progress Administration funded the creation of public works like dams, bridges—and more than 30 prisons and jails.

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The Measure of a Man

As Depression-era art centered on the heroic male figures rebuilding America, Paul Cadmus infused his public work with overt expressions of gay desire.

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The Shapes of Things to Come

Before many Americans had ever seen an abstract painting, the WPA commissioned artists to create large, avant-garde murals—for installation in a public housing project.

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Window Shopping

Conspicuous consumption plummeted during the Great Depression, but the fantasy of big spending remains a part of the American dream.

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Making Headlines

The relentless churn of daily news can feel like a burden—especially for those who don’t see themselves represented in it.

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Child’s Play

Handmade dolls embodied marginalized workers’ desire for autonomy—and, now, the plight of children at the United States’ southern border.

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The Visible Man

Telling, and preserving, the stories that reveal what it’s really like to be black in America—from Ralph Ellison’s classic novel to now.

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The Health and Safety of the Mother

During the Depression, the government encouraged men to get back to work—and women to stay home.

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Shelter in Place

The most iconic image from the Great Depression centers on rural poverty—but then, as now, the misery of homelessness was compounded in America’s cities.

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Song of the Mississippi

Heartbreak defines the human experience. And nothing can break your heart like your own country.

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On the Factory Line

Finding moments of beauty and elegance in industrial labor.

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A Queen Is Born

A local beauty pageant can be about more than just looks. It can also reveal how a community wants to be seen.

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When Art Is an Act of Protest

A summer of activism in Chicago reminds us that in order for history to be taught, it must first be recorded.

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Hole in One

Harnessing the power of the humble hole punch, to either create narratives or deflate them.

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What’s Your American Dream?

Gordon Parks and the pursuit of happiness as a black American.

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Public Service Announcements

Updating the iconic posters of the Works Progress Administration.

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If You Build It, They Will Leave

During the New Deal, Southwest DC was razed to create a “model city” for federal workers. Now the area is being redeveloped again, this time into a gentrified urban playground.

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Proposals for a Monument

Public art has the power to show us what we want to see—or reveal what we deserve.

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A Room of One’s Own

A photograph of a home speaks volumes about the inhabitant, even when they’re not included in the shot.

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Back to the Music, Back to the Game

A visit to the juke joints in the Florida Everglades where migrant laborers could go to relax.

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This Land Is Your Land

During the Depression, the federal government urged Americans to visit the country’s natural wonders.

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The Exquisite Catalog of a Crow Fair

Wendy Red Star brings illustrations from the Denver Art Museum’s card catalog to the Crow Nation’s annual gathering.

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The American Guide to the New Vermont

Shane Lavalette follows the refugees who have made their home in the whitest state in the nation.

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Stoop Life and Survival

Documenting a life of a neighborhood means covering street life in all of its joy and pain.

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Hot, Wet, and Out of Control

The history of Texas’s power struggle with water.

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The Afterlives of Slaves

Snapshots of a life after slavery, and an imagining of a world without bondage.

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Portraits of Hard Living in America

The faces and places of a forgotten swath of American life.

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She Works Hard for the Money

During the Depression, women were advised to “sing for their supper” as a way to survive hard times.

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Hands Across America

Manual labor can be hard and exhausting, practical and poetic.

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Wall to Wall

Public murals are contested spaces, where retellings of history and new visions of the future fight for prominence.

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Sharing the Great Outdoors

Tennessee’s once-segregated parks turn over a new leaf.

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Signs of Boom and Bust

Mark Steinmetz drives the streets of the city’s fast-growing urban sprawl.

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After the Curtain Calls

Fulfilling the American dream of standing under bright lights while your friends and neighbors applaud.

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The Many Lives of McCarren Park Pool

Beloved, abandoned, then beloved once more, a Brooklyn pool transforms alongside its neighborhood.

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The People of the Land

Dust Bowl migrants had to pull up roots. Native Hawaiians are strengthening theirs.

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Letting Sleeping Children Lie

Leanne Shapton reconsiders motherhood after seeing a photograph of children asleep during a square dance.

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The Cycle of a Woman’s Life

A 20th-century mural for a women’s prison meets 21st-century inequality.

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