5 Year Plan After Graduation

1520 Words Apr 8th, 2008 7 Pages
"For the first time since the plantation days artists began to touch new material, to understand new tools and to accept eagerly the challenge of Black poetry, Black song and Black scholarship."1

By 1934 the economic destruction wreaked by the Great Depression had put between eleven and fifteen million people out of work. Ten thousand of these jobless citizens were artists. A year earlier, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the newly elected president, had signed into legislation the Federal Emergency Relief Act. Based on a system of work relief, this project's primary objective was simply to get people back to work, artists included. The government had no particular commitment to the arts, but it realized that artists "have to eat like other
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The graphic arts division of the WPA/FAP directly assigned artists in the Philadelphia program to develop original prints in all media, but many of the artists assigned to other projects also found time to experiment with print making. The main catalysts for creativity were the community art centers that sprang up in various urban centers and at Black colleges. The Harlem Recreation Art Center is the most famous for its list of alumni reads like a Who's Who in Black American culture: Selma Burke, Aaron Douglas, Palmer Hayden Jacob Lawrence, and Augusta Savage all worked there. But there were also vibrant centers in Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Richmond, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, Florida. One of the most exciting aspects of research into this era of American art is that a great many of the artists are still living and they are without exception still actively pursuing their art.

The community art centers provided young Black artists with new experiences in the arts, experiences from which they had been largely excluded by the segregated social conditions of the times. As teachers in the centers, professional Black artists were able to gain access to printing presses and tools. A very special relationship between artists, teachers, and students evolved during this time. Roles freely shifted

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