A Useful Art (2003)


Ahearn, Barry. “Zukofsky, Marxism, and American Handicraft.” In Scroggins (1997): 94-111.

Jennison, Ruth. The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-Garde (2012): 58-68.

Nadel, Ira B. “‘A Precision of Appeal’: Louis Zukofsky and the Index of American Design.” In Scroggins (1997): 112-26.

Sherwood, Kenneth. Introduction to A Useful Art: Essays and Radio Scripts on American Design (2003): 1-13.

Taggart, John. “Moving on to the Beginning.” Afterword to A Useful Art: Essays and Radio Scripts on American Design. Ed. Kenneth Sherwood (2003): 225-233.


This volume collects materials LZ prepared as a writer for the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the government’s New Deal scheme to employ writers and artists during the Depression. LZ worked on various different projects between January 1934 and April 1942, and at “A”-8.96-97 LZ describes one of his forays to interview a blacksmith in the Bronx when doing research on old gardens. The surviving scripts were written for the Index of American Design (Jan. 1936-July 1939), “a survey of American decorative arts and crafts from earliest colonial days to the beginning of large-scale production” and for WNYC Radio (Sept. 1939-Jan. 1941) on similar topics. A selection of illustrations of crafts from the Index of American Design with descriptions can be found at the National Art Gallery website.


In “A”-12.257, LZ mentions A History of American Design as one of his discarded or unfinished projects, which presumably refers to these materials, although it may indicate that he planned his own related work on the subject. Jennison reproduces an “Outline for Book on American Arts Design,” which also is most likely part of his WPA work but may indicate an independent project (63, 204).