Design Inspiration: The Rust Orange Block Sock
The Fortis Green colour block sock in rust orange is inspired by the 1936 'See America Welcome to Montana' Art Deco poster, Illustrated by Martin Weitzman and commissioned by The Federal Art Project as part of America's Works Progress Administration.
Created in response to the Great Depression, The WPA Federal Art Project (1935–43) was a program enacted to fund the visual arts across the United States. It was created not as a cultural activity but as a relief measure to employ artists and artisans as part of The New Deal - a series of domestic programs enacted between 1933 and 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with aims to provide relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. In total, at least 100 offices were created during Roosevelt's terms of office as part of the New Deal, and "even the Comptroller-General of the United States, who audits the government's accounts, declared he had never heard of some of them."
While previously all monetary appropriations had been separately passed by Act of Congress, as part of their power of the purse; the National Industrial Recovery Act allowed Roosevelt to allocate $3.3 billion without Congress (as much as had been previously spent by government in ten years’ time), through executive orders and other means.
Artists employed by The Federal Art Project were tasked to create murals, fine art paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography and arts and crafts. The WPA Federal Art Project established more than 100 community art centres throughout the USA, researched and documented American design, commissioned a significant body of public art and sustained some 10,000 artists and craft workers during the Depression period. The New Deal particularly helped American novelists including Ruth McKenney, Edmund Wilson and Scott Fitzgerald. For journalists, and the novelists who wrote non-fiction, the agencies and programs that the New Deal provided, allowed these writers to describe about what they really saw around the country.
Series of WPA Community Service posters 1936-1941
The New Deal arts programs emphasised regionalism, social realism, class conflict and audience participation. The unstoppable collective powers of common man, contrasted to the failure of individualism, was a favourite theme, which, in turn a section of the community viewed as pro-government propaganda.
Federal Art Project Employment and Activities 1936
The series of WPA National Parks posters are among the most highly sought out.
From 1938 to 1941, the National Park Service employed artists via the WPA to produce silk screened promotional posters for national park sites. The artists worked out of a facility in Berkeley, California, and the 14 designs they created were well received. With the onset of World War II, however, production ceased and the posters were lost to history until the early 1970s when a seasonal park ranger named Doug Leen happened upon an original at Grand Teton National Park. Fascinated with the artwork and the story behind it, Doug Leen set out to learn more. Just over 40 of these exceedingly rare national park posters have since resurfaced and are in National Park Service archives, the Library of Congress and with private collectors. Through the course of two decades and extensive research, Doug Leen and his company, Ranger Doug's Enterprises have not only painstakingly reproduced the 14 original WPA designs but also—working in collaboration with individual parks—created and screen printed more than 25 new designs “in the style of” the WPA artists.
Fort Marion National Monument. St. Augustine, Florida. WPA Poster c. 1938
Sequoia National Park. WPA Poster c.1938