Employment and Training Institute .

Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project Online Exhibit

history of the project by Mary Kellogg Rice This exhibit was prepared by the late Mary Kellogg Rice for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Golda Meir Library in October 1997. The exhibit is dedicated to the five thousand women and men who worked for the Milwaukee Handicraft Project from 1935 to 1943. These county residents were forced onto public relief to aid their families during the Great Depression. While they often used inexpensive materials and initially lacked employment skills, the workers made products of outstanding quality, beauty and educational value. Elsa Ulbricht, the faculty member from Milwaukee State Teachers College (the predecessor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), envisioned the WPA as an opportunity for women to make craft items that would be useful to governmental institutions; at the same time the workers could be exposed to the uplifting experience of good design. Mary Kellogg (Rice), the young art director, set the standard for the work: "It was decided that no matter how simple the article to be made or how inexpensive the materials to be used in the construction, the article would be well-designed or it would not be made."

The work of the WPA Handicraft Project enriched the lives of children and adults in schools, nurseries, state and county institutions, hospitals and colleges in Milwaukee County and throughout the nation.

Exhibit Introduction
photo of worker making sailboats
photo of project dolls

photo of WPA nursery quilt
photo of workers binding books
At the Zoo children's book
Children's Books

> WPA costume design
photo of worker blockprinting
photo of project worker making a rug

nurse with WPA toys
photo of screenprint material
photo of WPA furniture
Counterpane Toys
Furniture and Interior Design

WPA woven product
worker sewing manikin costume
line to see WPA exhibits at State Fair
Visitors and Exhibits

Learn more about the Works Progress Administration (WPA) activities in Milwaukee.

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Employment and Training Institute
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Direct comments to Lois Quinn (lquinn@uwm.edu)