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California Treasures: Artwork of the Great Depression

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created jobs for millions of people by organizing work for public benefit.  It was an effort by the government to provide unemployment relief and stimulate the economy.

In addition to providing work and wages for day laborers to repair roads, build bridges, and complete other infrastructure projects, the government also employed hundreds of artists, poets, architects, musicians, and writers to create work that celebrated America and preserved its history and cultures through artistic expression. Famous contributors to WPA art projects include Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Art in all it’s forms, as we know, is one of the first things people stop buying when the economy is down. Many artists, musicians, and writers were able to survive the depression because of these projects.

An impressive  new exhibit at the California State Capitol Museum titled “California Treasures: Artwork of the Great Depression” showcases some of the magnificent artwork that was commissioned by the California State Parks System and created under State and Federal Government work relief programs  from 1934 to 1942.

The collection features exquisite color drawings of the botanicals and birds of Mount Diablo; watercolors of the redwood trees of Big Basin, oil paintings of Clarkson Dye’s impressions of California landscapes and much more. The artwork commissioned by the California State Park System included mural paintings, easel paintings, watercolors, pastels, and ink and pencil drawings, some of which is on special display.

Anyone interested in the history, culture, or landscapes of California as seen through an Depression-era artist’s eyes will be entranced by the exhibit. As a bonus – admission to all the California State Capitol Museum exhibits are free.

For more information about this exhibit, or other events and activities at the State Capitol Museum, call 916-324-0333 or visit http://capitolmuseum.ca.gov/

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