The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art presents “WPA Impressions: The Reality of the American Dream”

On view in the Morris Graves Gallery through July 27, 2014, the installation was curated by University of Oregon art history student Merrit Thompson


EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 18, 2014) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art presents a selection of Works Progress Administration (WPA) prints, which have been on long-term loan to the museum from the federal government since 1956. Curated by Merrit Thompson, a senior in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, the exhibition is on view through July 27, 2014, and supports the Eugene Public Library’s 2014 Big Read (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”), a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.


“The WPA artists represented in this display shared the plight of the common man and depicted the realities of everyday life — good and bad,” says Thompson.  “These artists, both male and female, worked in several geographic regions of the United States and came from divergent backgrounds. Still, they all shared the difficulties of everyday life, and, therefore, often depicted the harshness of the Great Depression.”


On Friday, April 4, at noon, Thompson will lead a curator’s gallery talk.


The Great Depression followed the prosperous and optimistic Roaring Twenties. The hardships of the 1930s -- bank closures, high unemployment, and devastating drought -- inspired the enactment of the WPA by the U.S. government in 1935, which allowed many American artists to earn livable wages during this period.



In “WPA Impressions,” isolation, woeful faces, confusion within the crowd, and desolate landscapes are contrasted with images of revelry, ambition, and hope for better times to come. Artists use the varied mediums of the prints to express raw emotion.


According to Thompson, the prints also contain a sense of realism in both corporeal and sensory experiences, which is juxtaposed against the abstraction of many compositions’ backgrounds.  Some artists chose optimistic subjects, especially “the American Dream.” These prints captured the fantasy and excitement prevalent in pop culture during the 1930s, offering an escape into better times.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America, Europe and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in the state of Oregon—and the only university museum--accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contacts Debbie Williamson Smith, Communications Manager, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,