Growing up in a time of slashed arts budgets, I’m fascinated that the Roosevelt administration put so much emphasis on supporting art and artists during the relief efforts of the Great Depression (especially relevant now in Covid time!).
Among the many examples of New Deal funded art projects in Philly are these totally wonderful mailmen on the Nix Federal Building:
And, the “countless crustaceans” (among other scenes of commerce) decorating the federally funded US Customs building:
One New Deal program, called the Public Buildings Administration, was set up to construct and operate federal buildings, such as the customs house, schools and post offices. In addition to building, it also hired muralists to decorate them with paintings designed to boost the moral of citizens suffering hardships of the depression (figuring that folks from all walks of life eventually ended up in a post office), so they typically depict local events, local people and local folk lore. Of the 1400+ post office murals created, 3 Philadelphia post offices still have their original murals:
Spring Garden (1299 N 7th St.)
“The Streets of Philadelphia”
Southwark (925 Dickinson St.)
“Iron Plantation Near Southwark – 1800”
North Philadelphia (2601 N. 16th St.)
“Mail Delivery,” “City,” “Country,” “Northern Coast,” “Office,” “Home,” “Tropics,” and “History of Mail Transportation by Water.”
Not all the WPA post office murals were 2 dimensional. “The Letter,” by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, was created using an artificial stone. This one is across the river in Haddon Heights, New Jersey.
The Bok Building was also constructed as part of the WPA program (On a Rooftop in South Philly…).
I also adore the posters created by artists of the Works Progress Administration to publicize community events. The Free Library and Philadelphia Museum of Art both have collections that are occasionally on view (or check out on line).
From a recent exhibit at Carpenter’s Hall:
From the PMA collection:
For more information on New Deal projects in Philadelphia and around the country, check out https://livingnewdeal.org/us/pa/philadelphia-pa/