“The Beauty of a Block: Women Printmakers of the WPA Era” showcases the work of women employed through the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Art Project in the 1930s and 1940s.

The prints were selected from the Hite Art Institute’s print and drawing collection and curated by UofL critical and curatorial studies students Megan Bogard-Gettelfinger, Whitney Mashburn, Jessica Oberdick, Elizabeth Smith and Leanna Smith.

The selected pieces encompass a wide variety of mediums and subject matter, with imagery focused on workers, families, landscapes and the industrial growth of America during the time period including race, gender and societal roles. The print mediums include woodcuts, lithography and serigraphy.

Artists included are: Gertrude Abercrombie, Florence Arquin, Ida Abelman, Leah Balsham, Vera Berdich, Kathleen Blackshear, Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Cleo Van Buskirk, Ruth Cheney, Eleanor Coen, Blanche Grambs, Nan Lurie, Clara Mahl, Ann Nooney, Miné Okubo, Elizabeth Olds, Dorothy Rutka, Ethel Spears and Katherine Uhl.

The Federal Art Project was the visual arts section of the WPA. Part of the New Deal programs, it provided artists with full-time employment to make art for non-federal buildings including schools, hospitals and libraries. This display illuminates the substantial contributions women artists of the era made to the field.

Along with the art pieces, the exhibit includes a reading room with a variety of books used to research the artists, as well as supplemental materials and WPA-commissioned posters.

“The Beauty of a Block” will run from May 29 through July 17 at the Schneider Hall Galleries at UofL. An opening reception will be held from 5-7 p.m., Friday, May 29, at the galleries. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. 

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Erica Walsh
Erica Walsh is the senior marketing manager in the Office of Communications and Marketing where she manages the UofL Magazine and the President’s Report and contributes to the university’s branding and advertising efforts. Walsh joined UofL in 2014 after previously serving as the public relations specialist at Indiana University Southeast for seven years. Prior to her career in higher education communications, she was a reporter at The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, Ky.