The Works Progress Administration, more commonly known as the WPA, as passed by congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt on May 6, 1935, at the height of the Great Depression. It was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal Agency, employing millions of people across the nation to carry out public works projects. The WPA is most commonly known for the construction of public buildings and roads, but what is less known, is that it also had programs which funded the creation of art in public spaces.
This mural, created by Dewing Woodward, was commissioned by the Federal Arts Project and completed in June 1936. The panel on which it was painted was seven feet high and twelve feet long. According to Woodward, the mural depicts the true atmosphere of the Everglade wilds, the cypress swamp, Seminole Indians and the cloud effects particular to this region.
Born in 1856, Dewing Woodward, who was a nationally famous artist, was the superintendent of easel painting for district four of the Federal Art Project. When the University of Miami opened in 1928, she was hired as the school’s first art instructor. When the Biltmore Hotel opened in 1926, several of her Golden Warbler paintings could be found hanging in the lobby. Woodward’s popularity was not exclusive to South Florida. Her art was hung by Eleanor Roosevelt in the Treasury Building in Washington D.C. When Woodward died in 1950, her obituary in the New York Times referred to her as “one of the nation’s leading painters.”