Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Depression-era Murals Live On

Depression-era mural
Depression-era murals survive and thrive in both book and exhibit form thanks to the Birmingham Historical Society’s newest endeavor: identifying, assembling, presenting, and chronicling artworks which were created and appeared in the Birmingham area. “We just kept looking,” explains Marjorie White, BHS. “We found the murals still intact in some structures, never having been moved in all these years. We found collections tucked in attics, archives, and online. It has been a fascinating scavenger hunt to find this incredible art, created by artists between 1929 and 1939.” The exhibition Murals, Murals on the Wall 1929-1939 will be on view November 7 through December 31, 2010, at the Central Library in the 4th Floor Gallery.

The book, Digging Out of the Great Depression: Federal Programs at Work In and Around Birmingham, is the ultimate picture book—144 pages with 250 seldom-seen images of our region’s programs in the arts, agriculture, beautification, archaeology, school and infrastructure improvement, health, reforestation, theater and more. Our ancestors can be seen at work improving our community and keeping morale and productivity alive during one of our nation’s most challenging times.

Murals, Murals on the Wall 1929-1939: Our Story Through Art in Public Places contains magnificent Depression-era artwork in person, covering the walls of the Central Library’s 4th Floor Gallery. Visitors will see 10 murals, created for the 1939 Alabama State Fair to chart the history of Alabama agriculture. “They were lost and forgotten in an attic of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), but are now rediscovered and being seen for the first time in many years,” says White. The murals are restored and will be loaned to Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at the conclusion of the exhibit. Digital images of other original murals in Birmingham libraries, post offices, and courthouses will also be on display.

An opening event is scheduled for Sunday, November 7 with a 2:00 p.m. lecture on Birmingham’s New Deal Murals led by Gaines Smith, Director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and Marjorie White, Director of the Birmingham Historical Society. A reception follows from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Books will be available for purchase at the reception in the Library Gallery.

Associated Activities at the Library: Brown Bag Lunch Talks: Artists on Relief, with Graham Boettcher, Curator of American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, November 3, Noon; The Discovery and Conservation of Birmingham Murals, John Bertalan, Conservator and Bruce Dupree, Historian, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, November 10, Noon. Both events take place in the Arrington Auditorium, Central Library, 2100 Park Place.

To buy books: by mail, Birmingham Historical Society, One Sloss Quarters, Birmingham, Al 35223, $35 postpaid; at the Central Library front desk; and at the November 7 opening event.

For additional information, please contact the library at (205) 226-3746.

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