Art is a very big part of our lives today. Some people do not realize how often they are exposed to art. For example, teenagers go watch movies almost every weekend. Some of them, however, do not think about movies as being art. Art includes everything from movies to paintings to Broadway musicals. Therefore, art has been an important part of people?s lifestyle for many years. There were many artists during the Great Depression. Many artists, from the Great Depression era, are still remembered today for their work during that period of time. One of these artists was Grant Wood, an American painter best known for his work depicting the scenes and the people of Iowa.
Grant Wood was born on February 13,1891. His Quaker parents raised him on a small farm near Anamosa, Iowa. They lived there for several years. Grant liked art even when he lived on the farm at Anamosa, but everyone thought that he would grow up to be a farmer. When Grant was ten years old, his father died. Grant?s mother knew she could not care for the farm by herself. As a result, Grant?s mother moved him, his two brothers, and his sister to Cedar Rapids. Grant lived most of his teenage years in this city. While he was there, Grant worked odd jobs after school to help support his mother and sister. While he was in high school, he worked on several art projects. These projects included designing scenery for school plays and drawing pictures for the yearbook. After he graduated in 1910, he taught art, made jewelry, took art classes, learned carpentry, decorated houses, and cared for his mother and sister.
After high school, he enrolled at the Minneapolis School of Design and Handicraft. He studied with the leader of the arts and crafts movement in America, Ernest Batchelder. He taught Grant many things he needed to know about art. He also studied at the Chicago School of Art Institute. In 1918 Grant Wood served his country in World War I painting camouflage on tanks and cannons. In 1920 Grant took his first trip to Paris. He took another trip to Paris in 1923. On this second trip, Wood studied at the Academy Julian for approximately a year. He returned to Paris again in 1926 and in 1928. His trip in 1928 was his last trip to Paris. It has been said that his last trip to Paris was a turning point in his career.
In 1934 Grant married Sara Maxon, a former opera singer from Cedar Rapids. In the late thirties, Sara and Grant ended their relationship in a divorce. Fortunately, they did not have any children. Along with the trouble in their relationship, came the problems of being an artist during the Great Depression. Singing and painting was not considered work. The artists had a very hard time during the Depression. Wood did not get to finish his final painting because he was diagnosed with cancer. Wood died on February 12, 1942, one day before his fifty-first birthday. He was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Anamosa, Iowa.
The Great Depression was a very difficult time for artists. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration supplied work and income for artists that were struggling to make a living. Even though the WPA had drawbacks, it was better than what they had before. In spite of the fact the wages were low, the people felt fortunate to get a job on a WPA project because it was better than being on relief. The families in some poor Southern states were only averaging about ten dollars per month. At least by working on one of the WPA projects, the people could gain a little bit of self-respect. Since they were not getting direct relief, this built the morale of the people. The WPA added to the common wealth of the American people. The WPA was very popular because of its attempt to provide support for the arts. In the mid 1930?s, the WPA created a wonderful program, which supported the arts, Federal One. This was a small portion of the WPA funds for an experiment in providing federal support for the arts in America. Franklin Roosevelt believed that fine music, art, and theatre were essential to a good life. He wanted to make this culture available to all people.
The 1935 relief money was provided to help unemployed professionals. The WPA set up four programs under Federal One: the Federal Art Project, the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theater Project, and the Federal Writers? Project. Harry Hopkins was one of the people who thought that it was foolish to put a concert violinist or a Shakespearean actor to work laying bricks. Later, Hopkins and others with the WPA realized that this program provided more than just suitable relief work for artistic or educated Depression victims. They saw that it was a great way to combine high culture with American Democracy. This relationship between culture and democracy had been troubling some Americans for quite some time. The arts were often distanced from ordinary people. They wanted to bring art to all people; but were afraid that if they did, that art would lose some of its value. They thought that federal patronage of the arts could be a possible solution for this problem. The Depression left many artists with nowhere to turn but Washington. Total dependence on federal financing in all aspects was not good. First, they had to win the public?s support for the idea. It was hard to convince many people that singing and acting was work. Public support for the federal arts projects gave several million people the chance to experience high culture. People had the opportunity to be in WPA-sponsored community symphonies and amateur theatres. The quality of the work of the federal art project employees varied widely. An example of a project was murals painted in post offices. These murals tended to represent the general public and working class. They were paintings about things that the community knew and loved. Roosevelt thought some of the art projects were good, some of them were not so good, but all of them were created by Americans. Roosevelt?s knack for understanding the attitude of the masses was evident again.
At the end of World War I, the economy of the United States began to rise. After the war, there was a growth of industry which was unmatched by any time in the past. The rise also caused the standard of living to rise, which provided many new luxuries for people?s lives. Sometimes change is good; but in this case, the consequences of the change were devastating. The consequence in this case was the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. In the early 1920?s, Warren G. Harding was the president. He believed in policies that reduced taxes and regulation, allowed monopolies to form, and allowed the inequality of wealth and income to reach record levels. Harding died in 1923 and Calvin Coolidge took over his presidency. He continued to work on Harding?s policies. The five-year rise in economy began when Coolidge was in office. He also was able to lower the tax rate to twenty-five percent and the Supreme Court made a ruling, which further limited government control over monopolies. In 1928 Herbert Hoover became the president. During the first seven months of his presidency, almost all of the Americans were living below the poverty line. The actual crash began on October 24, 1929; the worst day of the crash was on October 29, 1929. This day is now called ?Black Tuesday?. The total losses of the month of October came to about sixteen billion dollars. After the Market Crash in October, Congress passed the Agricultural Market Act to help support farmers until they got back on their feet. Roosevelt entered office in 1933. The first several bank panics happened during this time. The public started to worry about their money, which caused many of the banks to fail. These failures and deposit losses caused the national money supply to shrink. By 1932, the worst year of the Depression, the economy was in very bad shape and the unemployment rate had reached twenty-thee and six-tenths percent that year. Roosevelt was committed to defeating the Depression and helping America recover from the economic disaster it was facing. Roosevelt promised a New Deal for the people and he kept his promise by passing the New Deal. By 1934 the United States had recovered from the Depression.
In conclusion, the Great Depression brought some very hard times. People chose to deal with the problems in different ways. The WPA addressed the art problem and helped it tremendously. Many great artists were allowed to develop during these difficult years due to the financial backing of the federal government. This program helped expose the masses of people to the wonderful world of art. It also allowed artists to continue to work and improve in their trade. Art is, has been, and will always be an important part of everyone?s life.