This Long Beach mural is by Art Mortimer. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) To read more about him and his murals, read the April issue of Southwest Art magazine.
Earlier this month, the National Endowment for the Arts released a report stating that artists are unemployed at twice the rate of other professionals. It might be no coincidence that the art world seems a-Twitter with talk about the Works Progress Administration lately. Is it time to bring it back?
During the Great Depression, artists were among the hardest hit. The government started the Federal Art Project (a division of the WPA), hiring about 5,000 unemployed artists to paint murals in schools, courthouses and post offices.
In Los Angeles, some of these murals have survived and sowed the seeds of a movement that flourishes today. The city’s rich history and multicultural heritage is splashed across its buildings, storefronts and highway ramps from East Los Angeles to Long Beach. With about 1,500 murals, Los Angeles has been called the mural capital of the world. The street art adds a shot of beauty and color to the concrete metropolis.
Statewide, the California Public Art and Mural Society keeps the WPA spirit alive, with its artists accepting commissions often from small towns to revitalize crumbling downtown areas where mom-and-pop businesses once thrived.
So, the new stimulus package contains lots of moolah for construction and repair of roads, federal buildings and schools. Has the time come to slice off some of the pie for our nation’s struggling artists to enrich our small towns and big cities?