Working to Prosperity: California’s New Deal Murals

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1979


University of California Press in association with the California Historical Society


Announcing in 1933 that artists needed "to eat just like other people,'' New Deal relief administrator Harry L. Hopkins gave his support to a groundbreaking plan to commission artists to produce public works of art.1 Hopkins argued that "work relief," as it was termed, was necessary because it not only provided otherwise jobless people with money to buy food, but also preserved their skills and restored their self-confidence. 2 In addition, work relief brought the government something in return for its money-unlike the more traditional "dole" or cash handout. In the midst of the greatest depression in American history, then, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt committed itself to the idea that artists, no less than other Americans, deserved the opportunity to use their particular abilities in government employment until the private sector could once more provide them with a living.