As a tax supported institution, the Cleveland Public Library was eligible to commission and receive art works from the first New Deal art program, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), which operated for seven months, from December 1933 to June 1934 under the auspices of the Treasury Department. The purpose of the program, inspired in part by the Mexican government's subsidized mural movement of the 1920's, was to provide work relief for unemployed artists and create works of "American Scene" public art for government and public buildings.
Library Director Linda Eastman was the sister of Cleveland artist and art educator William Joseph Eastman, a member of the Cleveland PWAP advisory committee. Linda Eastman supported the project with commissions for murals and easel paintings for the Main Library and its 34 neighborhood branches. Her commitment to children and reading can be seen in the paintings and ceramic sculptures based on themes from children's literary classics. She believed that art offered solace to Library users in a troubled time.
This digital exhibit features images of all of the Library's PWAP murals, as well as a selection of easel paintings, ceramic sculpture, graphic arts, drawings, and costume dolls. The ceramic sculptures were made for the PWAP project and the later Federal Art Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA/FAP). The costume dolls were also produced by a WPA project.
The digital images were based on photography by Howard Agriesti, the Intermuseum Conservation Association, and Don Snyder. A conservation program to clean and restore the art works is underway, with treatments performed by the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Oberlin, Ohio. Some images of the conservators at work on the murals have been included in this online exhibit.
Easel Paintings for Children