Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Burl Noggle


During the Great Depression artists working in programs funded by the federal government roamed the nation wielding brushes, jotting notes, and pointing cameras in an attempt to define and characterize American society. Never before and not since has this country conducted so intensive a survey of itself, or one so controversial. Federal patronage of the arts occurred during an anxious period of political and cultural turmoil, a turmoil inherent in the story of the Arts Projects themselves. The very structure, organization, composition, execution, and objectives of the arts agencies mirror the tensions of the age. The artists' selection or avoidance of subjects, even the manner by which the fruits of their labors were disseminated among the American people, reflects the turbulence of the 1930s. Nowhere is this more evident than in Huey Long's Louisiana, where the government art program recorded some of its greatest achievements and most bitter disappointments. This dissertation is an interdisciplinary analysis of four federal programs in Louisiana, a state then undergoing rapid political and social transformation. Each of the projects, individually and collectively, not only provides a valuable glimpse into the character of American society in crisis, but also addresses many of the enduring questions of this Republic.