Beauty and Bread

The Fireside—News and Views from The Living New Deal

Beauty and Bread

Mural "Local Industries," Springdale, Arkansas Post Office

Mural "Local Industries," Springdale, Arkansas Post Office
By Natalie Smith Henry, 1940.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Soup kitchens and food banks made a comeback in the past year as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy.  During the Great Depression, when hunger stalked the country, the New Deal enacted programs to feed those in need—programs that continue to offer a lifeline today. The New Deal recognized that— like food—beauty also provides nourishment. The WPA not only hired millions of workers to build the nation’s roads and bridges, it also employed struggling artists, writers, musicians, actors and architects to erect a cultural infrastructure—public art, art centers, museums, libraries, parks and gardens. The goal was not only to provide jobs but to bring beauty to Americans wherever they lived. The naturalist John Muir described beauty as a “hunger” shared by every person. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,” he wrote. America is hungry for both. 

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New Deal Maps

Check out our latest map and guide to the work of the New Deal in Washington, D.C. It includes 500 New Deal sites in the District alone, highlighting 34 notable sites, and includes an inset map of the area around the National Mall which can be used for self-guided walking tours.

Take a look at our previous guides, equally comprehensive, covering key New Deal sites in San Francisco and New York City.