FDR tried a form of federal patronage at the height of the Great Depression, when he introduced the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in 1934.
The program served the US gallantly well.
Under the PWAP, the federal government paid stipends to 3,750 artists to produce paintings, prints, crafts and sculptures for installation in federal buildings around the country.
It encouraged the artists to depict the “American scene,” but put no further restrictions on them.
It wound up spending an average of only $75 per piece.
The PWAP was replaced a year later by the better-known Works Progress Administration (WPA), which doled out payments to thousands of emerging artists, including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Jacob Lawrence, Philip Guston and Lee Krasner.
All told, the artists working under the WPA between 1935 and 1943 produced more than 2,500 murals, 100,000 paintings, 17,000 sculptures, and 300,000 prints, for a total cost of only $35 million.