WPA posters shown at Constitution Center

    The National Constitution Center now has on display dozens of posters created during the Great Depression. Back then, the Works Progress Administration hired 500 artists to design posters to promote various government messages.

    The National Constitution Center now has on display dozens of posters created during the Great Depression. Back then, the Works Progress Administration hired 500 artists to design posters to promote various government messages.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091105pcposter.mp3]

    According to Ennis Carter, 35,000 posters were designed, but only about 2,000 are archived. As director of the Philadelphia-based Design for Social Impact, she is hunting down posters to create an electronic database of the WPA’s poster project.

    Carter: Part of the problem is that, until recently, nobody cared. Posters were not considered artistic.

    Nettie Roth is the widow of one of the former poster artists. She says her husband was embarrassed to work for the WPA.

    Roth: He couldn’t wait to get off because there was a stigma attached to being on the WPA. Just one small step above welfare. When we got married, I never told my parents that my husband had been on the WPA. They would have been mortified.

    Eventually, though, the posters became collectors’ items. They represented the avant garde of graphic design, showing a strong influence of Bauhaus, the Art Deco, and proletariat art of the early Soviet Union.

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