Coming of Age: The WPA/FAP Graphic Arts Division and the American Print

Spring 2010

Marking the 75th birthday of the inception of the WPA/FAP, Coming of Age: The WPA/FAP Graphic Arts Division and the American Print celebrates the integral role of the Graphic Arts Division in the maturing of printmaking in America. Recognizing the potential of printmaking as a popular medium because of its intrinsic characteristic of graphic reproduction, Audrey McMahon, director of the New York FAP, established a print studio in February 1936. Other shops would soon follow in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Coming of AgeEstablished by the FAP, these print shops became research labs for developing new techniques and expanding upon existing ones. The FAP Graphic Arts Division did not meddle in the artists’ freedom of expression or choice of subject matter, actively encouraging exploration of relief printing, lithography, and serigraphy, effectively laying the groundwork for the flourishing of the graphic arts in the United States.

Coming of Age: The WPA/FAP Graphic Arts Division and the American Print brings together works that exemplify significant contributions and developments made in print media by the Graphic Arts Division. Lenders to the exhibition are Northwestern University Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Illinois State Museum, the Trustees of the St. Charles Public Library, Frederick Baker Inc., Corbett vs. Dempsey, the Max Kahn estate, Eleanor Coen, and Gregg Marinelli.

The exhibition opened April 8 through May 28, 2010, featuring 61 prints by 33 artists that were active in the print shops within the graphic arts section and includes four types of printmaking techniques: intaglio, relief, lithography, and serigraphy. Special programming for the opening reception included a concert and commentary by Bucky Halker: Woody Guthrie, The Great Depression and American Protest Songs.

In addition to the museum exhibition, several educational workshops were organized to emphasize the role of the Graphic Arts Division in American and printmaking history.

The Intergenerational Art workshop was directed towards children and at least one adult family member. The workshop focused on how artwork can be an outlet to tell stories of the time period it was created, using exhibition works as examples to show how stories of the Great Depression were documented. Participants could then share their own experiences in life and create watercolor paintings that depicted these experiences of growing up in different generations.

The Printmaking Workshop aimed to teach students about printmaking techniques used by the artists in the Coming of Age exhibition. Not only did they learn about these techniques, but the students were also able to create their own artwork using the learned printmaking techniques.

View Photo Gallery >>

Coming of Age