Between 1935 and 1943 the government-funded Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sought to keep artists throughout the country working by creating projects that would benefit the public. In Rochester, the Memorial Art Gallery’s director, Gertrude Herdle Moore, administered the WPA art program, while Isabel Herdle, her sister and the Gallery’s curator, was on the program’s committee.
In 1937, Rochester’s WPA art project was called “the most interesting and effective outside of New York City” by the regional director of the Federal Art Project. Rochester’s model program—hosted and administered by the Memorial Art Gallery—funded several mural groups by the artist Carl W. Peters.
Thanks to the Ellen W. and Thomas H. Miller family’s 2009 gift of over 60 of Peters’ preparatory studies for these murals, and a 2012 conservation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this important moment in Rochester’s and our country’s past can be reexamined in the 21st century.