Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joan van Breemen, bas-relief. (WPA)

In the 1930s, the Great Depression had every U.S. family in its grasp. Some of these were artists and Harry Hopkins under President Franklin Roosevelt started an experimental program known as the Public Works Art Program. This program was short lived, however, Harry Hopkins transitioning from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created the Federal Arts Project (FAP) in 1935 and directed by Holger Cahill. The FAP was a sub unit of the WPA. United States wide, the Federal Art Project existed in the forty-eight states. Its strongest outreach program was in art education for children. FAP maintained more than 100 community art centers across the nation, managed art programs, and held art exhibitions of works produced by children and adults. Under this program thousands of posters, prints, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and murals were produced, which were then, in turn, loaned to schools, libraries, galleries, and other institutions. These programs spawned a new awareness of and appreciation for American art and provided jobs for needy artists. World War II brought its demise as efforts were concentrated on the war effort; however, during its life an estimated number of artworks produced were: 2,566 murals, 17,744 sculptures, 108,099 easel paintings and 240,000 prints.

Joan van Breemen was a FAP sculptor whose art was done in or for the Florida Keys. Van Breemen's bas-relief sculptures were placed in 127 public schools, libraries and public buildings according to one WPA document. Seven each were placed in the two Hurricane-Refuge schools constructed by the WPA in the Upper Keys. Of the 14, nine remain in the Upper Keys. None are named. This one is in the Islamorada Library and the Plantation Key Courthouse.

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