New Deal Murals: A Legacy for Today's Public Art and Art Education

By Kieffer, Connie W. | Art Education, March 2000 | Go to article overview

New Deal Murals: A Legacy for Today's Public Art and Art Education


Kieffer, Connie W., Art Education


A recent discovery of 1930s New Deal murals in a school's attic has been the impetus for identifying how the legacy of these murals impacts on today's public art and contemporary art education. In 1995, a Chicago eighth grader, Hana Field, studying New Deal art, was the catalyst for the discovery of the treasure of New Deal art at Highland Park High School, in Highland Park, Illinois. As Hana researched Illinois Federal art projects, she read in Mavigliano & Lawson (1990) about Highland Park's nine panels depicting industrial scenes painted by Edgar Britton, one of Chicago's outstanding muralists of the 1930s. The murals were found in the attic where they had been stored since 1955 when the building where they had been displayed was demolished. Since their discovery, they have been cleaned and restored by the Chicago Conservation Center and now hang in the school's Instructional Media Center. More importantly, the story of the Edgar Britton murals has been an impetus for student and faculty research about regional art and its role in Depression era culture and the murals' impact on today's public art and art education.

At the re-dedication of Britton's murals during the 1995 Focus on the Arts, a biennial art celebration held at Highland Park High School, students shared what they learned from the discovery of the murals. Art History students investigated the nine panels representing the industries of mining, printing, farming, building, communication, transportation, steel construction, lumbering, and machine work as they were named by the 1934 Art Club students CArt Club names murals," Shoreline, 1934). To date, they found the only student involvement with the murals was the naming of each panel. They learned that the high school had an excellent vocational program during the 1930s, including a Building and Trades program where students built homes for community members, so the industrial theme fit the school and local community. Art History students also explained why this era of American art was considered artistically insignificant, but at the same time they began to question this notion. They learned that these murals were painted as part of the first of four New Deal art projects, the short-lived Public Works Art Project (PWAP). They found that Britton's selection as the artist was because of his artistic expertise in addition to the fact that he needed the $96.00 commission that artists earned for this project.

Advanced Placement Studio Art students studied the fresco painting techniques of Britton, marveling at his use of angle and perspective to depict the role of the workers and foremen. They noted the patriotic use of color: red, white, and blue. At the same time, they identified the Mexican muralist influence in both the muscular style and political meaning as indicated by a red star on a worker's shirtsleeve. Chemistry students traveled to the Chicago Conservation Center where the murals were restored, to learn about the complexity of the restoration process including the importance of chemistry knowledge in art restoration,

NEW DEAL ART PLAYED MANY ROLES IN AMERICAN LIFE

While the Federal Art projects were a way to provide economic relief for Americans, they served other purposes. Before the New Deal, most art was grounded in Western European tradition. American artists untrained in that tradition were for the most part ignored. Following that tradition, art was considered to be for the elite who could afford to view it in galleries or buy it for display in their finely appointed homes. New Deal art proiects were a way "to make art more American, more accessible to the public and more democratic" (Badger, 1989, p. 218). The Federal Art projects were called "art for the millions" (O'Connor, 1973). They brought art to the countryside, to the local post offices and schools where the American public gathered. They made art accessible to Americans throughout the country.

Formal art education, at this juncture, was in its infancy evolving from its early roots in the industrial arts (Efland & Soucy, 1992). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

New Deal Murals: A Legacy for Today's Public Art and Art Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.