President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration in 1935 as part of his New Deal program to give jobs to millions of unemployed Americans. In July of that year, Federal Project Number One, a central administration for arts-related projects, was established within the WPA. This administration specifically funded projects for artists, actors, musicians, and writers. One of these was the Federal Art Project, which employed more than five thousand artists throughout the United States in various art projects, including poster divisions.
These poster divisions were where pieces like Woman Hiking--WPA recreation project, Dist. No. 2 would have been made. The original silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were produced between 1936 and 1943 across seventeen states and the District of Columbia. All of the posters depicted programs and projects sponsored by the government, ranging from cultural performances to travel to community activities. The posters were printed mainly on pasteboard and were sometimes signed by the artist. In Woman Hiking--WPA recreation project, Dist. No. 2, you can spot a small signature on the left side of the print: “Shari”. Shari Weisberg was the artist of this and many other iconic WPA posters, but the printing of the posters was a collaborative effort. Artists were responsible for design, color selection, and cutting of stencils. The workshop’s technical staff manned the screen printing process. The exchange of ideas between the designers and the printers resulted in a technically and artistically well-balanced poster.Woman Hiking--WPA recreation project, Dist. No. 2 was created in the Chicago, Illinois poster division, as a way of encouraging people to go outside, be in nature, and engage in healthy activity. This piece is especially interesting given that its subject is a lone woman, trekking in nature: a seemingly radical image for the late 1930s.
Woman Hiking—WPA recreation project, Dist. No. 2 might not be quite what you’d expect of a 1930s-era design. Why? Because it stars a lone female figure hiking up a trail. That seems like a pretty radical image when you couch it in its historical context—the world of outdoor recreation has long been a boys’ club, even more so almost a century ago. Clad in shorts with tousled hair rippling in the breeze behind her, this backpack-toting outdoorsperson is a woman on a mission. Her limbs are bent in action as she makes her way up the hillside with determination and a subtle smile perceptible in the silhouette of her face. She’s an “unlikely” hiker, and we’re glad she’s been given the limelight ... Read more on the blog!