WPA "New Deal" Art Murals, Lost, Stolen
During America's Great Depression in the 1930's and early 40's over 5,000 jobs for artists were created by the federal government. These "New Deal" artists produced over 225,000 works of art in post offices throughout the United States. Enduring images of "American Life" were depicted in large works, usually murals inspired by Diego Rivera's Mexican mural tradition stressing social change. However the hard realities of American life were not shown in these murals, it was the everyday heroic and daring acts that were portrayed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA New Deal program funded the artwork, and the murals were produced by the Section of Fine Arts which was administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. These murals were considered a purely democratic art form, accessible to all people in post offices that existed in every community.
Many of these American works of art have been lost, stolen or destroyed. In Concord North Carolina "The Spirit of North Carolina" mural was destroyed when the post office was torn down to build a new one. These precious images of our American way of life have become few and far between. The good news is that there are some of the New Deal murals still left here in Western North Carolina.
In Brevard the "Good News" glazed tempera mural has been moved from the post office to the Transylvania Library. In Belmont the oil on canvas mural "Major William's South Fork Boys" is still in the post office, which is now being used as the Belmont City Hall. Canton's "Paper" mural is a Terra-cotta 7 reliefs mural. Gastonia's "Cotton Field and Spinning Mill" oil on canvas mural is still in their post office. Morganton and Lincolnton still have their post office murals intact and restored. King's Mountain's "Battle of King's Mountain" mural is still intact. Forest City has a plaster relief mural entitled "Rural Delivery." The Boone New Deal mural "Daniel Boone on a Hunting Trip" has been restored and is now featured on the Appalachian Mural Trail so it's original intent can continue... to be viewed by everyone!
As in these purely American New Deal murals, storytelling is a vivid part of mural art, stories are handed down, drifting through many generations. Today the Mural Movement has started an even more colorful way of passing our tall tales to future generations: historical public mural art. Magnificent murals speak of life here in Appalachia as they shine a light on mountain heritage and creativity. The Appalachian Mural Trail has been developed as a way to document and share these huge works of art with the world.
After 10 years of research, the Appalachian Mural Trail came
alive in 2017 at the hands of Jerry and Doreyl Ammons Cain. The project has now
blossomed into a viable, expanding success with 45 North Carolina historical
murals on the trail. We are currently out and about looking at great "new deal era" murals
that are worthy to be dedicated to the Appalachian Mural Trail.
So check back with us often to see the new surprises that are coming to this page.
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