News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Arts

October 7, 2011

Exhibit examines Indiana post office murals

BRAZIL — The elaborate and colorful murals installed in numerous Hoosier communities during the 1930s are highlighted in the Indiana Historical Society exhibition Local Treasure running through Oct. 24 at the Clay County Historical Society, 100 East National Ave., in Brazil.

The exhibition gives a brief history of the federal Section of Painting and Sculpture, which was established in the summer of 1934 “to secure suitable art of the best quality for the embellishment of public building,” and then focuses on the histories of some of the 36 murals commissioned and executed for Indiana post offices that are in existence today. The exhibit is based on a 1995 IHS publication A Simple and Vital Design; The Story of the Indiana Post Office Murals, by John C. Carlisle with photographs by Darryl Jones.

The first mural installation in Indiana was Henrik Martin Mayer’s two vertically oriented canvases, “Sad News” and “Rural Delivery” in July 1936 in Lafayette, while Marguerite Zorach’s “Hay Making” installed in Monticello in November 1942 was the last. The “boom years” were 1938 with 12 murals and 1939 with nine new art works in Indiana post office lobbies.

The persons depicted in the post office murals were occasionally specific figures, whether fictional like “The Raggedy Man” a James Whitcomb Riley character featured in Roland Schweinsburg’s “The Sleighing Party” in Alexandria, on nonfictional such as Solon Robinson and Chief Mewonitoc in George Melville Smith’s Crown Point mural “From Such Beginnings Sprang the County of Lake, Ind.”

“The other people shown may not be identifiable by name, but by type they represent the essence of the American scene concept,” Carlisle said. “They are the farmers, the loggers, the railroad men, the pioneer mothers and the workers of our history.”

The Clay County Historical Society began in 1925 during the county’s Centennial Year. In 1978, they purchased the Old Post Office Building which has been home to the museum since that time. The Society will be hosting an Open House Sunday from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 9. Forms will be available for the ongoing project of entering servicemen from previous wars on the kiosks at the Indiana War Memorial. There will be homemade cakes for refreshments and door prizes.

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