art provided hope
by Delbert Trew
considered a curse or a blessing, the "New Deal Programs" of President
Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl helped
provide food and money for millions of people during these hard years.
In all walks of life, old timers recall their time spent working for
the WPA in various public works projects or the lifesaving CCC serving
young men offering food, board and practical training in many fields.
Lesser-known New Deal Programs to aid smaller special groups came
into being in 1933 when the U.S. Treasury launched a program called
the Public Works of Art Project. Funds were allocated to help artists,
writers and photographers to record current history, the mass migration
of the people and to try to bring some beauty into a drab existence.
were no shortages of artists or subjects. The first problem was where
to display the art? Since a part of the Public Works Program was to
build much-needed government or public buildings providing work for
the people, many new post offices and federal buildings were constructed
and chosen to display the artistic murals created by the artists.
The term "mural" comes from the Latin word murus, meaning wall. Thus
artwork appearing on walls or extended areas are called murals. Often,
the new buildings had areas that were odd-size or had windows or doors
in the selected mural site challenging the artists further.
By the end of the program in 1934, about 15,660 works of art including
700 murals, painted by 3,750 artists were displayed throughout the
nation. Later the program was extended from 1938 to 1943, creating
Texas, 106 artworks were created and located in 69 post offices and
other federal buildings. Most of the Texas
mural subjects contain scenes from Texas history. Sites in the
Among the participating artists, a few who later became famous were
Peter Hurd, Tom Lea and Julius Woeltz. The book, "The Texas Post
Office Murals - Art For The People" by Philip Paris, provides
the best, most accurate information on the subject. Our hats are off
to the author for this well-researched work. The scenes shown are
in brilliant color and detail.
doubt the original purpose to the program was successful providing
money for survival for many young artisans. To be chosen to paint
a mural was an honor and offered a great chance to exhibit personal
talent. For a few, the program gave a jump-start to their early artistic
proved, more important than supporting the artists, the program provided
a distraction for the hard-pressed common people as they viewed the
works in progress inside the buildings. Times were hard, and the Dust
Bowl had left little beauty in the countryside. The brilliant colors
and historical scenes of the murals gave the public a glimpse of their
roots, the beauty of color and the hope that better times were just
around the corner. If you live near one of these murals, check it
out. Now you know the history.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
October 2, 2007 Column
Art by Bob Bowman
Post Office Murals
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