Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Arts Stimulus Petition

I have been thinking lately about the wonderful programs that were created during the Great Depression to create jobs for artists. I was wishing there was something like that again; what a great way to stimulate the economy, and morale simultaneously. I was lucky enough to visit Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon the summer after college (Ack almost ten years ago!). It is a beatiful testament to the WPA.

This iconic alpine lodge sits on the south slope of 11,239-foot Mount Hood, where it was built in just 15 months at the hands of hundreds of blacksmiths, stonemasons and farmers who scavenged the area for its timber and stones. Wildlife motifs and Native American symbols were hand-carved or welded into every corner of this three-story, 70-guest-room lodge, helping to make Timberline as much a museum as a hotel.

I came across this petition on facebook this evening,
From One Percent for the arts:

Many artist and writers live without health insurance and struggle with issues of housing and security. Deep cuts in federal funding for the arts and education have exacerbated difficulties.

In the less than a month, Congress will pass a $600 billion stimulus package in order to stimulate the economy and help create jobs. We ask that the arts be included in this package.

Please join us. Sign our petition. Contact your legislators. Post a link to our petition on your facebook page, and ask all of your friends to sign.


Programs that paid thousands of artists and writers comprised one of the most creative aspects of the New Deal. Thousands received relatively small outlays of funds for their work, and the nation's artistic heritage was greatly enhanced. The same kind of initiative is needed today.

We call on Congress to recommend that the government spend 1% of the stimulus plan on arts and culture ($6 billion if the final package totals $600 billion), building on the New Deal's Federal Art Project, Federal Theater Project, Federal Music Project and the Federal Writers Project.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 to bring jobs to those who had become unemployed or underemployed during the Great Depression. Since artists, musicians, performers and writers were also hit by the economic hard times, divisions of the WPA were assigned the task of creating suitable jobs for such people--jobs that would not only take advantage of these individuals' talents, but also serve to enrich America's cultural heritage and embellish public spaces.

The Federal Art Project, along with several other WPA-backed programs, created well over 5,000 jobs for American artists. These artists created more than 2,500 murals, 17,700 sculptures, 108,000 paintings, and 240,000 prints. The project's legacy lives on: it supported artists Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and many other abstract expressionists whose work helped shift the most dynamic center of the art world from its traditional location in Europe to the largest cities of the United States.

The Federal Writers' Project created more than 6,600 jobs for writers, editors, researchers, and many others who exemplified literary expertise. The project compiled local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works. These writers created over 1,200 books and pamphlets, and produced some of the first U.S. guides for states, major cities, and roadways. In addition, the FWP was responsible for recording folklore, oral histories, and, most notably, the 2,300 plus first-person accounts of slavery that now exist as a collection in the Library of Congress. The Project's contributions to American literature were significant and long-lasting, giving Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, Sterling Brown, and many others the opportunity to continue their work in a time of difficult economic circumstances.

The Federal Theatre Project employed 12,700 theater workers at its peak. State units were established in 31 states and New York City, with most states in turn creating more than one company or unit within their own jurisdictions. Federal Theatre units presented more than 1,000 performances each month before nearly one million people -- 78% of these audience members were admitted free of charge, many seeing live theater for the first time. The Federal Theatre Project produced over 1,200 plays in its four-year history, introducing 100 new playwrights.

Employing around 16,000 musicians at its peak, the Federal Music Project ensembles -- orchestras and chamber groups; choral and opera units; concert, military and dance bands; and theater orchestras -- presented an estimated 5,000 performances before some three million people each week. Music projects had local cosponsors -- schools or colleges, government or civic groups -- and small admissions charges helped meet costs.

The Federal Music Project also provided classes in rural areas and urban neighborhoods; in 1939, an estimated 132,000 children and adults in 27 states received instruction every week.

An Arts Stimulus Plan today could be used for increased funding for the NEA; preservation of archives; a secretary level-post for culture/arts; arts education; arts in public space; workplace literary readings; to document history; American artists overseas; fellowships/ scholarships; support for black college writing programs; artist- and writer-in-residence programs in public libraries, and more.

Join artists and activists in calling on Congress to make the arts a priority.

Sign our Petition:


stacey said...

thanks for bringing this to my attention ashley

Ashley said...

Of course! I am so excited about it.