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1 September 2011 Entomology and the WPA Federal Art Project in Kansas: Artists Drawn to Science
Jordan D. Marché II
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Faculty members from the Department of Entomology at Kansas State College (now Kansas State University) in Manhattan received support (ca. 1940–43) from a somewhat unusual source to complete a work of practical utility describing the region's insect fauna. Their patron was none other than the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) - the largest agencies of their kind that provided employment relief during the Great Depression under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies. More than a dozen and a half regional artists were recruited and trained in the exacting techniques of scientific illustration, for which stringent standards of performance were uniformly applied. Through their efforts, more than a hundred pen-and-ink habitus drawings were prepared for the identification manual, Insects in Kansas (1943), published by the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. Seemingly exploiting an opportunity provided by the WPA/FAP to demonstrate an integration of “the arts in general with the daily life of the community,” the entomologists' rationale almost certainly drew upon the model of cooperative agricultural extension used in diffusing practical (i.e., vocational) scientific knowledge. This investigation has also revealed what it meant to be a WPA artist employed on the project. It has likewise enabled the artistic work (and profiles) of two notable Kansas women scientific illustrators - Bertha (Kimball) Dickens and Ella (Weeks) Menoher - each a member of the Kansas Academy of Science - to be placed into historical context.

Jordan D. Marché II "Entomology and the WPA Federal Art Project in Kansas: Artists Drawn to Science," Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 114(4), 187-216, (1 September 2011).
Published: 1 September 2011

Common Insects of Kansas
cooperative agricultural extension
Federal Art Project
Insects in Kansas
Kansas State Board of Agriculture
Kansas State University
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