Mexican Art and Identity: Olmecs to the Present: "The Influence of Mexican Muralists on WPA Art"

byDonna Sussman

"The Influence of Mexican Muralists on WPA Art" is an interdisciplinary unit that uses art to help students to understand the economic, social, and political changes that occurred during the Great Depression. It is designed to be taught in Social Studies classes and may be adapted to American History, World History, Cultural Geography, American Government, Psychology, as well as 2-D Art. In American History, it is part of the story of the New Deal. In World History and Cultural Geography, it provides the highlights of 20th century Mexican culture. Lessons on symbolism, influence, and tone include a variety of strategies for both advanced and challenged learners.

An overview of the work and influence of Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera, David Siquerios, and Jose Orozco, is discussed in the context of economic, social, and political events including the Mexican Revolution, Communist Revolution, the Great Depression, and the post war industrialization of the United States. Internet sites are provided for mural examples of their work in the United States..

The outstanding mural work of the Mexican artists in the 1920's and their connection to many prominent Americans opened the door to government financed art projects during the Great Depression. Initially, the United States government created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a New Deal building project and later added an art section to beautify the many public buildings constructed.

Many of the murals still exist today in public buildings (Treasury and Interior Department Buildings in Washington, D.C.) and especially Post Offices all over the nation. There were over 50 murals created for the Chicago schools. I have provided a web address for locating the Post Office projects in your state. In Appendix 7, I have included 5 examples of Florida murals that I personally photographed. I am planning a field trip to the local murals, some of which have been restored.

(Developed for American History, grade 11; recommended for American History and World History, High School grades)

Comments (4)

    barbara jean davis (Koenigen Mathilde Gymnasium, Herford, Ge)
    Subject taught: art, Grade: 11
    Mexican muralists
    I found your page to be very informative and interesting. I would be interested in having more information.
    Katherine Mae Gonzales Sabate (University of the Philippines, Manila, Ph)
    Subject taught:
    your site helped me with my review of related literature for my playwriting thesis
    Dianne Dawood (University of Florida, Jacksonville, FL)
    Subject taught: Leadership
    Andrew Robinson mural
    Could you please help me locate the WPA mural you described at Andrew Robinson Elementary School in Jacksonville. I am writing an independent study about the WPA in Jacksonville; today I visited with the principal there and she did not know about the mural. Do you recall its location in the school? The address of the school? Or who you dealt with when you visited the artwork? Thanks. Dianne
    Christine Holloway (Latin School of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
    Subject taught: Art, Grade: HS
    Great resource
    Do you have any curriculum around Chicago based WPA murals?

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