In 1941, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) hired Woody Guthrie to record music for a film promoting dams along the Columbia River. A fierce debate rages today concerning the dams. Both sides reference Guthrie's music and image in order to bolster their arguments. An examination of contracts, diaries, lyric sheets, letters, interviews, and other documents housed in the Woody Guthrie Archives reveals that the folk icon's relationship to the project was as complex as the man himself. The case is instructive, for both informing the current debate and, more generally, understanding the relationship between institutional sponsorship and art.