If today's economic outlook has you (or your grandparents) harking back to the Great Depression, take heart: A roster of free public events this weekend is designed to evoke the hopeful spirit fostered in the wake of those grim days.
The Posters for the People Expo Festival marks the 75th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal - an alphabet soup of programs created to restore the nation's spirit, as well as its economy.
Chief among the New Deal programs was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which put everyday men and women back to work building schools, roads, bridges and post offices. That legacy is visible today in the Golden Gate Bridge, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Philadelphia airport - all WPA projects.
But FDR's New Deal also recognized that the Depression was more than economic - it chipped away at our souls, as individuals and at our collective spirit as a nation.
So the WPA had a strong arts component. Unemployed artists, musicians, actors and writers were hired to create plays, songs, books and films aimed at rebuilding national pride and community spirit.
And the WPA hired other artists - poster makers - to help publicize all the New Deal efforts.
Millions of silkscreened posters hung in bus depots, shop windows and schools, urging citizens to value themselves, respect their neighbors, and find confidence in government.
Community spirit was at the heart of FDR's New Deal and its goal to promote a hopeful and strong America. And in that spirit, the Posters for the People Expo Festival is free and open to the public. Here is what's planned:
A Living Archive of WPA Posters is available online. WPA artists designed more than 35,000 posters, but until now only about 900 were available for viewing online at the Library of Congress.
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Since 2002, the Social Arts - the nonprofit arm of the local company Design for Social Impact - found and digitalized 1,000 additional WPA posters. A Web site displaying all the posters will be launched this weekend.
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A book launch will take place from 5 to 7, followed by a film screening; both will be at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, 1020-22 South St.
First, meet the authors and editors of
Posters for the People: Art of the WPA
by Ennis Carter (Quirk Books, $50), a lavishly illustrated coffee table book featuring nearly 500 of the most powerful posters produced by the WPA. All royalties from the sale of the book will support the new WPA Living Archive noted above.
Then, stick around for the New Deal Film Festival (7 to 10 p.m.) featuring films, newsreels and documentaries made in the 1930s and '40s to publicize New Deal programs. Plus a sneak preview:
Soul of a People,
a new film by Spark Media on the Federal Writers' Project, will be previewed. Information: 215-922-7303 or
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The Community-wide Print Extravaganza is planned for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at various public spaces.
Anyone older than 4 can show up at one of six city locations and print a poster to take home. Silkscreening supplies will be provided. Experts will teach basic techniques. Participants can print their favorite posters from a collection of WPA-inspired posters designed by local artists.
Locations: Murphy Recreation Center, Fourth and Shunk Streets, South Philadelphia; Flux Art Space, 3000 N. Hope St., North Philadelphia; Mural Arts Space, 1729 Mount Vernon St., Fairmount; University City Arts League, 4226 Spruce St., West Philadelphia; Holmesburg Recreation Center, Rhawn and Ditman Streets, Northeast Philadelphia; the roof at Whole Foods market, 10th and South Streets, Center City.
A Gala Expo Celebration is scheduled as an all-ages party from 6 to 10 in City Hall Courtyard, Broad and Market Streets.
Come out for an evening of New Deal-era music, cabaret and short performances of theater, dance and comedy. Plus, get information from local organizations that continue to represent the legacy of the New Deal programs. Information: 215-922-7303 or
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A field day will be held from from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at FDR Park, Pattison Avenue and South Broad Street. Bring the family out for an old-time field day with sack races, a doll-and-buggy parade, music, guided hikes, and a cookout. For dessert, try a cone of Grapes of Wrath, a new flavor developed by the Franklin Fountain, 116 Market St., as an homage to John Steinbeck's book of the same name. Grapes of Wrath, the ice cream, is made with locally grown Concord grapes. It is available at the Franklin Fountain all this month and will be served at the field day.
Today through Sunday
An exhibit of WPA posters called "Posters for the People: Public Art Then and Now" will be up, as well as posters designed by young people in the Mural Art Project's Big Picture program. At the Mural Arts Project Gallery, 1727-29 Mount Vernon St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.