Thursday, August 5, 2010

The 2010 Works Progress Administration

The Wassaic WPA Truck; Christopher Robbins

A few months back we featured some of the photography of Christopher Robbins with our introduction to the The Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska,  and we're  excited to introduce our readers to his new project which shares the same sense of ethics and aesthetics, and a similar rural-urban perspective. 

Mr. Robbins has an ambitious goal: to bring back the Works Progress Administration. It's a vision that seems necessary on both an economic and a cultural level, a way of looking at local and national "progress" that integrates art and community. Here's Mr. Robbins' introduction to the WPA-2010 project:
During the last Great Depression, the WPA employed millions, repairing roads, building parks, and other public works. It reached out directly to people who needed it most, creating projects outside the U.S. Government’s usual remit. 

Now, the WPA-2010 brings back small-scale, community-driven neighborhood recovery and action. 

We provide employment and skills development for people to work in their own neighborhoods, to focus on projects chosen by their own community.  In short, we are a flexible coalition of citizens, spearheading small-scale community-driven initiatives in the drive towards our government following suit. 
In recognition of the fact that the WPA brought together rural and urban workers, and that it worked to alleviate economic suffering from the densest urban centers to the smallest towns across the plains, the non-profit WPA-2010 has set up their first two offices: one in Jamaica, Queens, NYC and the other in the rural hamlet of Wassaic, New York--with more chapters to follow. The comparison of these two buildings, before the WPA-2010 moved into them, suggests more commonalities than differences:

As Mr. Robbins notes in his introductory video below, there is an element of theater here, or of taking the idea of installation art to its most pragmatic conclusion, yet it's refreshing to see these ideas applied for the betterment of the community, and not languishing in a downtown gallery. As with The Rural Studio, this is a line of thought which has been producing some of the most vital and interesting art in recent years, and we'll be keeping everyone posted on the development of the WPA-2010 in the coming months. 

The fund-drive that Mr. Robbins mentions in the video has successfully concluded, with support from  organizations and individuals alike. For more on the WPA-2010, head to Christopher Robbins' flickr page to see photos from the early projects in Wassaic, or visit here if you'd like to contribute funds to the project.