WPA’s Philadelphia Fine Print Workshop

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Raymond Steth
Raymond Steth, Wrapping Tobacco, lithograph, c. 1940; Courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell Gallery

During the New Deal era, the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) engaged over 10,000 artists in communities across the US. In Philadelphia, a Fine Print Workshop was established in the same building where a WPA/FAP Poster Workshop was housed. The Fine Print Workshop quickly distinguished itself for its openness to both technical experimentation (the Carborundum print process was invented there), as well as its racial inclusiveness. Eventually five African American artists made work there, including Raymond Steth (1917 – 1997). During that time, Steth worked on the development of the Carborundum print process with Dox Thrash. Later, he played a key role in The Print Center’s Artist’s Workshop, where he was a technical advisor along with Stanley William Hayter. Steth’s work is now in numerous public collections including the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; and Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.