The New DealTaking office in March 1933,President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s NewDeal relief measures were sent toCongress and within months, most ofthe acts the president wanted werepassed. New Mexicans welcomed NewDeal programs of all kinds. Some ofthe New Deal programs, such as theWorks Progress Administration(WPA), put people to work in varyingjobs: writers, artists, and musicianspracticed their trades as employees ofWPA projects, while others whoworked for the WPA built schools andother public buildings, including thelibrary and the administrationbuilding at the University of NewMexico. By 1936 more than thirteenthousand New Mexicans had foundjobs through this program.
Public Works of Art Project(PWA)and The Federal ArtsProject (FAP)Between 1933 – 1943, in the depth ofthe depression, 167 known artistslived in New Mexico, all struggling tosell art in a time when manyAmericans had little money availableeven fornecessities. The New Deal’sWorks Progress Administration ArtProject provided an opportunityforartists to create artwork for publicbuildings, allowing them to remainindependent, support their families,and enrich and enhance thecommunity.
The Indian New Deal in NewMexicoThe Indian Reorganization Act of June 18,1934, sometimes known as the Indian NewDeal, was U.S. federal legislation that securedcertain rights to Native Americans, includingAlaska Natives. These include actions thatcontributed to the reversal of the Dawes Act'sprivatization of communal holdings ofAmerican Indian tribes and a return to localself-government on a tribal basis. The Act alsorestored to Indians the management of theirassets (being mainly land) and includedprovisions intended to create a soundeconomic foundation for the inhabitants ofIndian reservations.President Roosevelt appointed John Collier asCommissioner of Indian Affairs (1933 – 1945).Collier took full advantage of New Deal fundsto promote Indian arts and crafts, increaseemployment, improve infrastructure onreservations, and construct schools. Collierwas an idealist who struggled to reformfederal Indian policy during his twelve-yearterm. Years earlier, during a 1920 visit to hisclose friend, Taoshe had embraced PuebloIndian culture as offering nothing less thansalvation from the ills of Western Civilization.
Famous Artists of New MexicoAccording to the New Mexico Art Museum, thefollowing New Mexico artists were among themany employed in WPA projects: Pablita Velarde,Maria Martinez, Ila McAfee, Gerald Cassidy, WillShuster, Lloyd Moylan, GisellaLoeffler, EliseoRodriguez, Kenneth Adams, Fremont F. Ellis andPeter Hurd. The area coordinator of the WPA’sPublic Works of Art Project was woodblockprinter, painter and marionette-maker GustaveBaumann, a leading member of the Santa Fe artcommunity. More than 65 murals with variedsubject materials were created in New Mexicoduring the Depression.