Section of Fine Arts mural “Tennessee Valley Authority” painted for the Huntsville post office and courthouse by Xavier Gonzalez, 1937.
“The Huntsville mural was the largest and most expensive panel commissioned in Alabama and the only one placed in a federal courthouse rather than a post office. Gonzalez received the invitation for the panel based on designs he had submitted for a competition in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1936. He originally proposed a rather odd allegorical panel that the Washington office criticized for both its style and its lack of meaning for the people in Huntsville. Instead of making allegorical allusions it was suggested that Gonzalez place emphasis on the realities of life. Using a realistic style and basing his new theme on the work then being done by TVA in northern Alabama, he redesigned the panel several times. It was ultimately put in place in October of 1937 and described by Gonzales: “Huntsville, Alabama is situated in the lower angle of the Tennessee River and has profited immensely by the benefits derived from the Muscle Shoals Project. Before this undertaking was begun, the country, being unprotected, was at the mercy of floods and calamities. The benefits of electricity were a privilege of the few who could afford the exorbitant price, the soil of the country was being washed away by the floods, and industry and agriculture were underdeveloped due to the uncertainty of land conditions. Since the completion of this project tremendous benefits have been received . . . the control and proper use of water resources; . . . conservation and preservation of land resources; . . . [and] the disposition of surplus electric energy created as a by-product of the irrigation and flood control.””
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