A Summary of Victoria Grieve’s “The Federal Art Project and the Creation of Middlebrow Culture”

October 24, 2018 |  Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Summary of Victoria Grieve’s “The Federal Art Project and the Creation of Middlebrow Culture”

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Endless histories have been written about the Great Depression and the New Deal. Finding a historiography that takes on a relatively unexplored angle on the era is not an easy task. However, that is exactly what Victoria Grieve has accomplished with her book “The Federal Art Project and the Creation of Middlebrow Culture.”

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The Work Progress Administration is well known for its public works accomplishments and providing jobs during the Great Depression. We are reminded of those accomplishments to this day on the roads we travel, schools we learn in, parks we visit, and bridges we cross. However, the lesser known division of the WPA, the Federal Arts Project, also had a huge lasting impact on the America we know. In Grieve’s historiography she explores the way early 20th century ideologies, as well as, the progressive era thinking combined with the Great Depression that all led to the creation of this unique program.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Throughout the Depression artists commissioned by the government worked together to create a uniquely American artistic culture. The art they created was intended to specifically appeal to the everyday American person. In doing so Grieve argues a middlebrow culture was created. Or as she puts it, “In their desire to create an art for the “common man,” FAP artists and administrators used the power of the federal government to disseminate a specific view of American culture, one that combined ideals of uplift with those of accessibility: a middlebrow visual culture.” Grieve does so through six chapters and 181 pages. Occasionally using images of WPA artwork to help support her argument. This artwork is still found today hanging in places such as, post offices, libraries, schools and hospitals. This makes Grieve’s work very interesting and prevalent. It is also a great starting point for people interested in learning about ways the government can impact influence aspects of culture which are usually considered separate from its control.


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