Where's the Art?

The Robert F. Kennedy federal building has one of the most expansive art programs in all of federal architecture. Collaboration between artists and architect occurred during the building's New Deal sponsored construction. The murals and sculpture contained within the building utilize many different materials and techniques, and include fresco paintings and aluminum sculptures. Intended as the permanent home for the Department of Justice, the artwork contains themes that pertain to the administration of justice, the benefits of a society in which justice prevails, and numerous allegorical figures of justice.

New Deal Art Programs

During the New Deal era, the U.S. Government administered four separate art projects that operated from 1933 to 1943. The projects produced thousands of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper. 

Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), 1933-1934: The Public Works of Art Project was the first federal art project for artists. Artists were on payrolls and received weekly salaries. 

The Section of Fine Arts (The Section), 1934-1943: Originally called the Section of Painting and Sculpture, the Section of Fine Arts awarded commissions to artists through competitions. The primary objective was to secure the best quality artwork for installation into public buildings. 

Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP), 1935-1938: Though it was under the supervision of the Treasury Department, the Treasury Relief Art Project employed artists to create paintings and sculptures for existing federal buildings.

Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP), 1935-1942: The Federal Art Project was the largest of the New Deal art programs in both its scope and the number of artists employed. 

These four programs produced thousands of works of art from 1933 to 1943. In 1934, the federal government began loaning or allocating the moveable artworks created under the New Deal art programs to public agencies and nonprofit institutions. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is the federal agency that is responsible for inventorying these loaned artworks. For site-specific works permanently installed in federal buildings, such as large murals and sculpture, GSA acts as the direct steward, overseeing the care of this important national cultural resource.

GSA Fine Art Collection

The GSA Fine Arts Program manages the collection of fine art found throughout executive branch federal buildings in order to ensure its safety, accessibility, preservation, and appropriate use in order to enhance and promote high-quality work environments for federal agencies and the public they serve. The Fine Arts Collection is one of our nation's oldest and largest public art collections. It consists of permanently installed and moveable mural paintings, sculptures, architectural or environmental works of art, and works on paper dating from 1850 to the present. These civic works of art are in federal buildings and courthouses across the United States. In addition, more than 20,000 small moveable New Deal works of art are on long-term loan to museums and other nonprofit institutions. Maintained by GSA as a part of our national and cultural heritage, the Fine Arts Collection serves as a reminder of the important tradition of individual creative expression.

Last Reviewed 2016-08-19