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Women's Art Work: BMA exhibit features art created in Great Depression employment program

Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 18:12:32-05

BALTIMORE — Looking for learning opportunities for your family this Women's History Month? The Baltimore Museum of Art has an exhibit running through June 30th entitled Art/Work: Women Printmakers of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

In it, you'll see about fifty works dealing with racial, gender, and class-based inequities made worse by the Great Depression. This, all through the eyes of women.

The unique view highlights a time when the role of women in our society was shifting and labor outside of the home was fulfilled more and more by women. WMAR-2 News walked through the exhibit with Curator Virginia Anderson who gave us insight into the works and the women who created them.

"The prints in this exhibition reflect the reality of everyday life for these women. They were working in all of these industries, and they were working artists. So, it's also a kind of recognition of their own professional status as artists," she said.

Anderson went on to say that their research for the exhibit showed that these women artists made about $3 per day, but the men made about $5, reflecting a disparity we still see today.

The museum put a timeline in each section to help draw the comparisons.

"We end each timeline moment with a contemporary event. So, like even thinking about the writer's strike that affected Hollywood this past year as a current example of striking and union work," said Anderson.

She told WMAR-2 News that the WPA project was a special opportunity to create and exhibit their work because of the many barriers to entry into the art world at the time for women.

"This was a time in which women were still having trouble getting admissions into art school, getting the financial support they needed. Galleries still wouldn't display works by women artists because they might not be able to sell them to collectors who were more skeptical," Anderson said.

The exhibit shows women artists from many walks of life and a variety of artistic skills.

"We really wanted to show the breadth and depth and technical skill of the amazing works that they were producing during this time," said

The prints are a select group pulled from the BMA's collection of more than one thousand prints entrusted to the museum by the federal administration back in 1943. The Work Projects Administration Federal Art Project provided jobs from 1935 to 1942 to millions of workers affected by the Depression. And you can find all types of works across the US today.

For information on visiting the exhibit and the rest of the museum, click on thislink.

And if you'd like to learn more about the WPA, find out more here.