Callanan Middle School Murals – Des Moines IA


From the school website:

“In the 1930s the famous WPA Murals, under the direction of Grant Wood, were painted for the walls of Callanan. The school was fortunate to be chosen to have two such artistic treasures to beautify the upper portion of each stairway. The south mural Nation at Work’ was painted by George Grooms in 1936. The north mural ‘Nation at Play’ was by Glen Chamberlain and dated to 1937. Each mural made a statement about preparing young people for participation the the adult world. They were viewed as a patriotic reflection of President Roosevelt’s aim to get all our citizens back to work. ‘Play’ was further featured in an exhibit in Washington D.C. to gain support for more New Deal Art Programs. The murals were restored in the 1980′s by the efforts of Principal Marian L. Ehlers and a community wide fundraising campaign.”(

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

901 Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50309

Location notes: "Play" located in the north stairway, "Work" located in the south stairway

Coordinates: 41.585277, -93.628952

3 comments on “Callanan Middle School Murals – Des Moines IA

  1. Steve Grooms

    The work mural was painted by my father, George Grooms, when he was 20 years old. He and I visited the murals in 1998 on a nostalgic trip to Iowa, where my dad was born and where he spent many years. Dad was pleased–maybe even relieved–when he got to see the mural again. He had last seen it 60 years ago. He fled from it then, feeling ashamed of his pretension.

    I can offer more information, especially personal information, about the painting to anyone who has the interest.

  2. Hello,
    I am just wondering if you can answer some questions of mine for a school project. My topic is the Federal Art Project and I was wondering if you could send me some pictures if you have any. Also, do you know how much he was paid? Or if he did any other murals? Thank you for your time and help it is very appreciated! If you could email me back at [email protected] that would be great, again thank you so much!

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