Administrator Carnahan in front of a piece of artwork

Public art for, by, and of the people

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“I have enormous belief in the human spirit and in people, regardless of what the world is like right now. I want to make people smile, I want to make people laugh, and I want to introduce to people their own sense of spirituality, because that’s what keeps us going. That’s what keeps me making art.” - Moe Brooker

Art comes in many forms - from small, idyllic paintings to sculptures of metal and earth, to modern art that defies and challenges traditional forms. Art connects us to history, to the world, to the human condition and to one another. The GSA Fine Arts Collection is one of the oldest and largest public art collections. The collection of over 26,000 works dating from the 1850s to today includes works of art acquired through the Art in Architecture program and under the federal patronage of New Deal Era projects. The artworks are housed in federal buildings and courthouses as well as on loan to educational institutions and museums across the country.

We are looking toward the future. In addition to an expansive collection of historic works, the Art in Architecture program is looking forward. Established in 1972, the program commissions American artists to create publicly scaled and permanently installed works of art for federal buildings across the nation. The recent installation and dedication of artist Moe Brooker's The Fruit of the Spirit in the William J. Green, Jr. Federal Building is just one of the program’s most recent commissions and represents GSA’s ongoing efforts to put public art in public spaces. Since its inception, the program has commissioned nearly 500 works of art.

Brooker’s work, commissioned in 2015, joins–and was in part inspired by–an earlier artwork created by his friend and fellow graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Charles Searles. Searles’ work, Celebration, was completed for the then newly constructed Green Federal Building in 1977 under GSA’s Art in Architecture program. Brooker’s 8 feet high by 30 feet wide, multi-panel painting is located adjacent to Celebration. Brooker described his concept for The Fruit of the Spirit as “one of joy” and as an “invitation that celebrates the architectural space and adds warmth to it.” Brooker had a long and prolific career as a painter and printmaker, and he touched countless lives as a teacher and mentor for more than 40 years. 

The largest painting Brooker ever made, The Fruit of the Spirit, is a bold arrangement of color, form, and line. Brooker has layered smaller, loosely-brushed areas of paint, chalky white lines and marks, and confetti-like patterns over larger fields of color. These dynamic forms are framed by several areas of stripes and checkerboard grids. Brooker has said that, for him, the checkerboard “always represents options, possibilities, and what could happen.”

We want to hear from you! GSA is seeking public input by April 4 on a new federal rule aimed at how the Art in Architecture program can proactively engage underserved communities during the art commissioning process, increase the number and diversity of artists considered, and ensure the program strengthens the experience of democracy and inclusion in America. The recent rule change removes restrictions on subject matter, themes, and art styles which had excluded many artists from consideration for commissions. 

GSA is committed to highlighting the diversity of our nation and its artists. The art in the collection and in public spaces across the country reflect our history, but also our promise. By looking to expand the pool of artists and reach underserved communities, we are looking to the future. As a steward of fine arts, we seek to showcase, inspire, commission and represent art that is for, by, and of the American people.

Moe Brooker, “The Fruit of the Spirit,” 2018–2020, acrylic and oil paints and oil stick on canvas, 8 x 30 feet, William J. Green Jr. Federal Building, 600 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

Moe Brooker, The Fruit of the Spirit, 2018–2020, acrylic and oil paints and oil stick on canvas, 8 x 30 feet, William J. Green Jr. Federal Building, 600 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

Photo by Joseph Hu

Last Reviewed: 2022-03-04