New Deal Murals Tour Educator Guide

The Bay Area boasts a rich mural tradition that includes several projects commissioned by the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s. This episode of Let's Get Lost takes a look at some of San Francisco's internationally renowned New Deal murals.

The Works Progress Administration was part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, a series of initiatives launched between 1933 and 1938, intended to aid American economic revival during the Great Depression. Originally called the Civil Works Administration, the program was originally focused on short-term recovery. The WPA functioned alongside the Public Works Administration, which was aimed at major federal building projects.

Roosevelt and WPA administrator Harry Hopkins saw the project as more than simply economic relief, but as a means to boost morale nationally. Rather than distributing money to those in need, Roosevelt sought to create jobs that would result in projects that would benefit the country as a whole. He regarded artists of all fields as workers too, and employed them in the service of creating works designed to instill pride in national and local history. The hope was that art would no longer be a rarified commodity, but rather would belong to everyone. San Francisco has more WPA funded projects than any other city in America, with the exception of New York. San Francisco also has an impressive series of WPA murals, including the first WPA project, and the last.

Introduce your students to the art and history of San Francisco's New Deal-era art projects using our in-depth videos and slideshows focused on New Deal-era murals in San Francisco. Download our Educator guide, which provides context for historical and contemporary murals in San Francisco, details about four of San Francisco's New Deal-era murals, and activity ideas for K-12 classrooms and lifelong learners. For media content, use the resources on this web site. And, if possible, encourage your students to visit the murals in person, using our Let's Get Lost mobile app as a guide.

Download the Educator Guide (PDF).