With the National Endowment for the Arts battling even more than usual for its humble slice of the economic pie, NPR had a nice piece this morning on a new show at the Smithsonian – "1934: A New
Deal For Artists" – about the first, controversial time artists got help from the government because, as FDR explained, "They're workers, and they need to eat, too."
The result was thousands of public works of art, many documenting the Depression and memorable in their own right. Among them were James Agee and Walker Evans' "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" and Dorothea Lange's searing portraits of migrant workers. Roosevelt once said his administration would be known "for its art, not for its relief." Today, it's known for both: The artists of the 30's, says museum director Betsy Broun, "gave us back to ourselves."
To see some great art about hard times go here
Photographer Dorothea Lange was one of those who benefited from later,
expanded government arts-funding programs. She traveled the country,
photographing the experience of the Great Depression; her photograph Migrant Mother, taken in 1936, is perhaps her most famous. Library of Congress