Originally named the Works Progress Administration, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established this federal agency in 1935 to try and get control over the Great Depression in order employ people who could not find a job. The WPA also represented a significant federal investment in the arts. In 1933, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) had given a grant to the Public Works of Art Project which allowed 3600 artists to make murals and sculptures for public buildings. This art project had ended in 1934 when the CWA dissolved. Luckily, the CWA had set the stage for the WPA's art, music, theater, and writers' projects, which became independent from each other. In 1935 they became the Federal Art Project (FAP), Federal Music Project (FMP), Federal Theatre Project (FTP), the Federal Writers' Project (FWP), and the Historical Records Survey (HRS).
Close to 10,000 drawings, paintings, and sculptured works were produced through the WPA, and many public buildings (especially post offices) were decorated with murals. Many of these works were not particularly remarkable, since the paintings were not provocative enough, and art historians have written much more glowingly about the contemporary murals in Mexico by Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, and others. Still, the WPA was important in the United States, and it influenced the careers of the leading Mexican muralists. When a more conservative government took power in Mexico in the early 1930s, Rivera, Orozco y Siqueiros, came to the United States. Even though the communist political ideology of Rivera and Siqueiros was contrary to the capitalistic principles of the United States, public institutions and individuals employed the three of them.