Confessions of a Depression Muralist
Frank W. Long, perhaps the most prolific artist to emerge from America’s publically funded arts program during the Great Depression, has written the only memoir of that effort from a participant’s point of view. It is compelling, revealing, and fun.
Post office murals are evidence of that program—the largest government effort to bring fine art to the grass roots. The massive New Deal-era idea was to decorate federal buildings with art appreciated by ordinary Americans, mixing genuine public works with real public interest.
Many think the murals were sponsored by the Works Progress Administration or its predecessor, the Public Works of Art Projects, but that was not the case. Most of the one thousand-plus murals created between 1935 and 1942 came from the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts. The Section commissioned professional artists to decorate new post offices and other federal buildings with art that depicted an uplifting aspect of United States history or culture. Artists were granted up to a year to finish their assignments, but Long was a productive as well as creative artist.
Although he preferred easel paintings to mural work (and eventually became a nationally exhibited jewelry craftsman), Long created nineteen impressive murals from his hometown of Berea, Kentucky, and Crawfordsville, Indiana, to Hagerstown, Maryland, and Drumright, Oklahoma. In works such as the huge, ten-panel sequence at the...
(The entire section is 428 words.)