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FREE Course for K-12 Teachers: WPA Posters

Posters for the People - Using WPA Sources


In the 1930s, the United States was in crisis. The economic system had collapsed and one-quarter of the country’s workforce was unemployed. In an effort to rebuild the nation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the "Works Progress Administration” (WPA) to put millions of jobless people back to work. To promote its vast social programs, the WPA commissioned 500 artists nationwide to created more than 35,000 posters and prints to reach the American public. Of the mere 2,000 posters known to still exist, the  Library of Congress' collection is the largest. These striking silkscreen, lithograph and woodcut posters publicized health programs, cultural programs, theatrical and musical performances, travel, education and community activities throughout the  U.S. The posters were made possible by one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts and were added to the Library's  holdings in the 1940s. In this course, learn about the WPA – its artists and its mission – and its connection to history, art, social science and visual literacy that can enrich your teaching. Participants learn about this time period, the power of design to communicate and how to use  visual primary sources to engage students. In addition to museum visits, design studio exercises and hands-on printmaking, participants will use the digital archives of the Library of Congress to prepare lessons based on these powerful historic images. Content is appropriate for every subject areas as connections to art, nature, history, material processes and literacy are explored.
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