Between 1935 and 1943, FDR's Federal Art Project provided precious employment for thousands of artists across America. We need a similar programme today in the UK to ensure the creative industries—and the economy at large—can thriveby Annabel Turpin and Gavin Barlow / June 30, 2020 / Leave a comment
Are we all Rooseveltians now? Certainly it seems the cabinet are. On Saturday, in a speech at the Ditchley Institute, Michael Gove praised the president who led the US through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
Franklin D Roosevelt said Gove, managed to “save capitalism, restore faith in democracy, indeed extend its dominion, renovate the reputation of Government, set his country on a course of increasing prosperity and equality of opportunity for decades.” The former president, he followed, “enabled America to emerge from a decade of peril with the system, and society, that the free citizens of the rest of the world most envied.”
By Monday, Boris Johnson was telling the newly-launched Times Radio that now is the time for a “Rooseveltian approach to the economy.”
His plan is certainly ambitious—in keeping with Conservative election pledges of 2019 and its “levelling up” agenda—and now given huge urgency by the fallout from Covid-19. The economic prognosis is grim: in the US, the nation hit hardest by the virus, some are forecasting 25 per cent unemployment next year. Here in the UK, the Bank of England has warned of a doubling in unemployment and a 14 per cent decline for the economy.
Culture will not be immune from this. One study commissioned by the Creative Industries Federation has suggested the creative industries could lose up to £74bn in 2020, with 400,000 jobs disappearing
As has been well documented, theatres across Britain have closed and may remain closed for a very long time. Galleries, cinemas and other venues have been given the green light to reopen, but will be working with vastly reduced capacities. Meanwhile freelance workers in the cultural industries, who make up a huge proportion of the sector, face a future where commissions could well just disappear.
Artists more than most have reason to look to Roosevelt’s New Deal as a template for survival and revival. Between 1935 and 1943, the Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers’ Project provided precious employment for thousands of artists across America, who painted public murals to adorn the corridors of public buildings, created state guides, and practically invented modern oral history with the Slave Narrative Collection, recording…