Pay the Artists, they are “brush ready”

WPA LogoLet’s be honest, times are tough for many in the design business right now, and we have all heard about the fiscal stimulus package going for shovel ready projects like roads and bridges, but The Atlantic Monthly has a cover story this month, called 15 Ways to Fix the World, with a better idea.

The seventh idea on the list is called Pay the Artists. Listen to the reasoning in the article written by Felix Salmon, its great,

“Arts spending is fantastic at creating employment: for every $30,000 or so spent on the arts, one more person gets a job, compared with about $1 million if you’re building a road or hospital.”

In fact the latest Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers have the median salary of graphic designers at $42,400. You could employ a lot of artists and designers for peanuts by Washington standards.

As I mention in my post on package design of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project employed over 5,000 artists, and they did some amazing things while the government paid them between $23 and $35 a week. This doesn’t sound like a fortune, but I suspect the artists were glad to have it.

And here is a list of some of the artists supported by this program, Thomas Hart Benton, Francis Criss, Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, Dorothea Lange, Jan Matulka,  Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Ben Shahn, and the list goes on.

I’m going to get in touch with the AIGA and see if we can start a movement to put artists and designers to work with Federal Funds. Stay tuned.

For more information on the WPA Federal Art Project look here, and here, and here.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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