GSA Preserves American History Through Art Recovery Effort

Video Length: 1 minute

GSA continues to demonstrate its commitment to preserving American history through its efforts to locate lost artwork commissioned by the U.S. government during the Great Depression.

At the height of the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented the Works Progress Administration to help put Americans back to work. Part of this initiative included artists documenting the nation through paintings, sketches, and sculptures. The government paid artists $42 a week for their works and hung in courthouses, schools, and other public venues.

Some of those New Deal art program pieces have gone missing over the years, so GSA’s Inspector General and Public Buildings Service teamed up to investigate the whereabouts and authenticity of the missing art. To achieve this goal, GSA set up a hot line that people can call with tips.

“Occasionally we’ll get calls from art connoisseurs who will say, ‘Hey, I think this painting is WPA,’ ” said Brian Miller, GSA Inspector General. “They call. We verify it.”

Information about the paintings is then entered into an FBI database that tracks lost and stolen art. Thus far, investigators have recovered dozens of works.

Copies of some of the recovered pieces are on display in the Inspector General’s conference room in downtown Washington, where GSA Administrator Martha Johnson spent some time viewing them.

“What I love about this art is it just gives you a window on that era, which is the era of my parents,” Johnson said. “And these must be the sort of visuals that they had in the small town that they lived in.”

The project started in 2001 and will continue until all the art is located. If you have a tip about a piece of lost New Deal artwork, call the GSA Inspector General hotline at 202-424-5210.

Read more about the federal art programs

Read more about the Inspector General project

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