Films From and About the New Deal and Its Worker-Artists

Detail from Bernard Zakheim, "Library" (1934)

Bernard Zakheim Mural, 2011
Detail from Bernard Zakheim, “Library” (1934)  Source
Photo Credit: Markus Lüske Markus Lüske

Margot Smith is a retired social scientist currently residing in Berkeley, California, where she made award-winning independent videos on political and social justice issues. Recently, she contacted the Living New Deal to lend some of her work to our project.


Take a minute and a half to watch cleaned-up promotional footage from The Works Progress Administration (WPA). It provides a fascinating glimpse into the practical and philosophical aims of the WPA, as it put millions of Americans back to work. (Who knew that art was important to a healthy citizenry?!) Spend some time considering the importance that this film places upon multiculturalism, in America’s past and present, as a form of social justice. Or set aside more time and explore the diversity of aesthetic and historical visions that comprised San Francisco’s myriad murals, produced with funds provided by the federal government during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. Finally, consider the life and work of San Francisco artist and muralist Bernard Zakheim, as narrated by his family. Zakheim’s New Deal murals are still around, gracing the walls of Coit Tower, the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, and UC San Francisco’s Tolman Hall. If you like what you see in these videos, go check them out in person!


Work Pays America (5 Min)

WPA Murals in SF (15 Min)

Bernard Zakheim’s Living Art (28 Min)

Gabriel Milner is Project Manager for The Living New Deal. He is a trained cultural historian who teaches courses in U.S. History at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

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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.