By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The LaSalle University Art Museum today opens a free exhibition of a often-overlooked period, during the Depression.

Think about it for a moment. During the Depression, the federal government created the Works Progress Administration to keep people employed. Some of them were artists, and 47 graphic artworks are collected in American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Co-curator Klare Scarborough gauges the impact of the period.

“I say it’s important with a capital ‘I’ because this exhibition kind of highlights the idea of art for the people, this kind of democratic art,” she said. “Which is why would put a capital ‘I’ on it as a movement that was happening in the 30’s and 40’s that was very important.”

Scarborough says 27 of the prints come from LaSalle’s own collection, 20 from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Several local artists are among those whose works are on display. .Furthermore, Scarborough says this was an incubator of the American style.

“It did lead to a backlash of criticism against WPA-era artwork, and this is why it’s kind of been given a small ‘i’ in importance for many, many years. There’s a lot of variety in terms of quality because artists were simply given a paycheck and that was one of the criticisms about it but Jackson Pollack, who we don’t have in the show, he was a WPA artist.”

There are also an exhibition catalog, available for purchase online, with explanatory texts about the display, several free on-campus lectures and outreach for the younger crowd.

The exhibit runs through May 30th.

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