Prefiguring the Federal Art Project (FAP), the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was organized by the Civil Works Administration "to give work to artists by arranging to have competent representatives of the profession embellish public buildings." Lasting less than a year, it provided employment for approximately 3,700 artists who created nearly 15,000 works.
1934: Artists' Committee of Action
Fighting censorship and advocating for artists' interests and welfare, the Artists' Committee of Action was formed by Hugo Gellert, Saul Belman, Stuart Davis, and Zoltan Hecht soon after a protest they had organized in response to the destruction of Diego Rivera's pro-labor mural at Rockefeller Center.
1934: The Artists' Union
Based in New York City, The Artists' Union was a leading voice for unemployed artists, advocating within the Works Progress Administration-Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) for more positions, better pay and working conditions, and lobbying against proposed cutbacks. Beyond the WPA/FAP, the Artists' Union fought censorship, lobbied for permanent federal funding for the arts, and for a Municipal Art Gallery in New York City in response to the destruction of Diego Rivera's mural at Rockefeller Center. After the gallery opened, they fought to remove a provision that excluded foreign-born artists from exhibiting work.
1935: Federal Art Project (FAP)
The visual arts division of the New Deal/Works Progress Administration provides employment for approximately 5000 artists across 48 states through the Federal Art Project until 1943.
1936: American Artists' Congress/Art Front
Organization founded in 1936 in response to the call of the Popular Front and the American Communist Party for formations of literary and artistic groups against the spread of Fascism. In May 1935 a group of New York artists met to draw up the 'Call for an American Artists' Congress'; among the initiators were George Ault, Peter Blume, Stuart Davis, Adolph Denn, William Gropper, Jerome Klein, Louis Lozowick, Moses Soyer, Niles Spencer and Harry Sternberg. Davis became one of the most vociferous promoters of the Congress and was not only the national executive secretary but also the editor of the organization's magazine, Art Front, until 1939.
1968: Canadian Artists' Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC)
Established by Canadian artists in 1968, CARFAC is the national voice of Canada's professional visual artists, defending artists' economic and legal rights and educating the public on fair dealing with artists.
In the New York Public Library's Archives: the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition was organized in January 1969 by a group of African American artists in response to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition, Harlem on My Mind.
1969: The Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG)
Formed in October 1969 by artists Jon Hendricks, Poppy Johnson, Silvianna, Joanne Stamerra, Virginia Toche and Jean Toche, GAAG used violent-non-violent direct action to attack and ridicule an (art) establishment corrupted by profit and private interest. Sound familiar? Blood Bath. Cockroach release. Letters. Manifestos. Licensing cards.
1971: Seth Siegelaub's The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement
Some things never change: The elucidating letter written to MoMA's Curator of Film by Hollis Frampton in 1973.
1974: Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA)
An extension of the WPA, CETA was enacted in 1973 to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service. Under it, artists were recognized as chronically unemployed and in 1974 the San Francisco Arts Commission initiated the CETA/Neighborhood Arts Program, employing artists as salaried, community-based cultural workers. Providing free performances, workshops, classes, and exhibitions, CETA artists were pivotal to the revitalization of neighborhoods by bringing with them critical funding that sustained small cultural organizations serving Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American communities. By the late 1970s CETA was the largest public funding source for the arts, employing over 10,000 artists nationwide with an annual budget in 1978 of 75 million. In New York, the formation of CETA Artists Organization (CAO) served to unify artist workers. While not recognized as a collective bargaining unit, it advocated for more jobs under CETA and to make the program permanent. It also worked with non-artist CETA workers, including District 37 Municipal Labor Union.
1975: The Second American Artists Congress
Almost 40 years after the first congress in 1936, Survival!, the second convening, is hosted by the Boston Visual Artists' Union, the largest individual artists organization in America.
1985: The Guerrilla Girls
Reinventing the "f" word for the art world - feminism.