Saving Historic WPA Murals

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), also called Work Projects Administration, was created in 1935 under U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. During its eight-year existence, the WPA put millions of unemployed people to work, including tens of thousands of artists. An estimated 225,000 works of art were commissioned, bringing art to public places like schools, libraries, hospitals, and post offices.

EverGreene recently heard about the rescue of the W.P.A frescoes in San Francisco by a University of California graduate student’s research and recognition of a historical figure, Biddy Mason, an African-American woman featured in on the History of Medicine in California panels completed by Polish-born muralist Bernard Zakheim in 1938.

The San Francisco building had been scheduled to be demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art research center. Luckily in June, the university received a letter from the General Services Administration (G.S.A.) stating that “ownership of the murals resides with G.S.A., on behalf of the United States.” The federal agency wanted the murals to be preserved. Until a new location for the murals is determined, their removal, preservation and storage by U.C.S.F. is supported by G.S.A.

Over the years, our team has had the pleasure of working on several restoration, removal and relocation projects; including the Harlem Hospital WPA Murals, Goldwater Hospital WPA Murals, and the Keith Haring mural removal from Grace House to name a few. We look  forward to hearing more of these stories as we continue to support the preservation of the past and important pieces of history to share with future generations saving the places in our communities where these amazing pieces of artwork reside.

To learn more about the discovery and recovery of this WPA mural, click here for the article by Carol Pogash featured in the New York Times.