Federal Project 2

19 Jul 2018 2018 OUTDOOR

Federal Project 2 offers a diverse group of American artists a chance to reflect upon and expand American art and storytelling, ultimately honing in on the spirit and identity that still defines this country.

Featuring: Wendy Red Star, Tommy Kha, Mark Steinmetz, Sofia Valiente, Damon Davis, Barry Stone, Leanne Shapton, Shane Lavalette

Presented by


Curated by

Topic Editors


In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began one of the most iconic artistic endeavors of the 20th century—the Works Project Administration, or WPA. In a program called Federal Project Number One, thousands of artists fanned across the country to create photographs, paintings, murals, plays, music, all in the service of documenting life in America during a turning point in American history.

We are at another turning point in America. Enter Federal Project No. 2.
Over the course of 2018, and into 2019, Topic Studios has commissioned 50 artists from across the United States to explore and showcase the diversity of contemporary life in America. Federal Project No. 2 will consist of artistic pairings, where we ask world-class photographers, visual artists, musicians, etcetera, to pick a work from the vast WPA archives that speaks to them, and then make new work in response to it.

Our goal is not unlike the first Federal Project: to find ways to showcase the richness of American life, seen through the eyes of American creators. While we can’t recreate the scope of the publicly funded work, we hope to retain some of its spirit.


Damon Davis is an interdisciplinary artist whose vast scope of work reveals his unbridled vision and masterful ability to create timely, candid moments through illustration, painting, printmaking, music, film, and public art.  

Wendy Red Star works across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures, both historically and in contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance.

Leanne Shapton is an author, artist and publisher based in New York City. She is the co-founder, with photographer Jason Fulford, of J&L Books, an internationally-distributed not-for-profit imprint specializing in art and photography books.

Mark Steinmetz is an established American photographer known for his traditional approach to filmmaking and reliance of chance-photography. Working in series, he has concentrated on such subjects as kids and teenagers, small American towns, summer camp, schoolteachers, and street scenes in Paris and various Italian cities.

Shane Lavalette was born in 1987 in Burlington, VT. He holds a BFA from Tufts University in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Lavalette’s photographs have been included in exhibitions at the High Museum of Art, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Aperture Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Musée de l’Elysée.

Sofia Valiente lives in Belle Glade, Florida—a small town on the coast of Lake Okeechobee. For the past two years, Valiente have been developing a comprehensive project that tells the story, through a contemporary, historical context, of the “The Last Frontier” that is the Everglades agricultural area. This work has been supported partly through generous grants from the H.E. Hill Foundation in Belle Glade. Her project Miracle Village, published as a book in 2014, was recognized with a World Press Photo award for portraits and stories. Valiente is also a recipient of the 2015 South Florida Cultural Consortium Artist Fellowship and Burn Magazine’s 2015 Young Talent Award.

Tommy Kha is a photographer based between Brooklyn, NY and his hometown, Memphis, TN. He is a recipient of the En Foco Photography Fellowship, the Jessie and Dolph Smith Emeritus Award, and a Magenta Foundation Flash Forward emerging photographer, as well as a former artist-in-residence at Center for Photography at Woodstock, Light Work, Fountainhead, and Baxter Street at the Camera Club of New York. Kha’s work often addresses queer identity and all things Memphis, including Elvis. He has a BFA from the Memphis College of Art and an MFA from Yale.

Barry Stone was born in Lubbock, Texas, and lives in Austin. He is the founding member of the artist collective Lakes Were Rivers, and his work is represented by Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery in New York. He is a professor and coordinator of the photography program at the School of Art and Design at Texas State University. Stone’s photographs begin as digital captures. Some remain unaltered, while other pictures Stone manipulates the code of the digital file to purposely introduce anomalies or glitches into the images. The noise and artifacts generated by databending create a kind of collage culled from the image’s constituent digital material.


Topic.com is a digital storytelling platform programmed around monthly themes—working in photography, illustration, video, and longform journalism, including the ongoing artist collaboration Federal Project No. 2. Topic is committed to discovering and amplifying independent new voices while supporting established ones.

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