The Federal Art Project Collection
Western Illinois University's Federal Art Project Collection was formed in the 1930s when university officials commissioned works through the Public Works of Art Project, and later through the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (FAP/WPA). These paintings and prints once decorated classrooms, hallways, and other public spaces on campus.
While art of the WPA era is traditionally viewed as overwhelmingly naturalistic in style and devoted to traditional regionalist subject matter, the WIU collection actually represents the aesthetic and thematic diversity of much of the art that was produced under the auspices of the Federal Art Project.
Many of the artists commissioned by WIU were based in Chicago and were involved in the city's cosmopolitan and progressive urban art scene. The collection boasts works by notable artists such as Archibald J. Motley Jr., Gertrude Abercrombie, and Romolo Roberti who were active in many of the innovative artistic movements of the 1930s, such as Precisionism, Surrealism, Art Deco, and Social Realism. Many of the works feature subjects inspired by the artists' experiences in either Chicago or rural sectors of Illinois and offer a fascinating creative perspective on life in the state during a complex period of profound social and economic hardship.