Nicholas A. Veronico

When author Nicholas A. Veronico was a teenager, his parents took him to various locations in Mexico to see the artwork of Diego Rivera, and each morning when he entered the hallways of Will Rogers Junior High School in Long Beach, California, he was greeted by Olinka Hrdy’s WPA Federal Art Project mural Deep Sea Magic. This early exposure to art from the 1930s formed the basis for his interest later in life of Depression-era art. To that end, Veronico has co-authored Depression-Era Murals of the Bay Area (Arcadia Publishing, 2014) and Depression-Era Sculpture of the Bay Area (Arcadia Publishing, 2017). He has written extensively on a variety of local history, military, and transportation topics, having authored or co-authored more than 40 additional books.

The Great Depression was a terrible blow for the Bay Area’s thriving art community. A few private art projects kept a small number of sculptors working, but for the majority, prospects of finding new commissions were grim. By the mid-1930s, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program had gathered steam, and assistance was provided to the nation’s art community. Salvation came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which employed thousands of artists to produce sculpture for public venues. The Bay Area art community subsequently benefitted from the need to fill the then-forthcoming Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) with sculpture of all shapes and sizes. As bad as the Depression was, its legacy more than 80 years on is one of beauty. The Bay Area is dotted with sculpture from this era, the majority of it on public display. Depression-Era Sculpture of the Bay Area is a visual tour of this artistic bounty.

Depression-Era Murals of the Bay Area: The San Francisco Bay Area’s art community was thriving until the Great Depression strangled commerce in the 1930s. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal art programs brought relief to many talented but financially strapped artists. Their legacy, and that of the New Deal, adorns the walls and halls of many public spaces throughout the region. Murals cover the lobbies of the Coit Memorial Tower, the Beach Chalet, and the Aquatic Park Bathhouse (today’s San Francisco Maritime Museum) and decorate many public schools and post offices. Today, almost all of this wonderful art can be viewed by the public, free of charge.