Artist James Michael Newell painted this large multi-panel mural with WPA Federal Arts Project funding in 1938. The murals depict the “Evolution of Western Civilization.” The murals begin with “primitive man building his society” and end with scenes from 1930s America.
“When it was completed, Newell’s progressive mural was well received. It won top honors in the Architectural League’s fiftieth annual exhibition in 1936 and it was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s “New Horizons of American Art” show featuring art commissioned under the Federal Art Project. By the late 1960s, however, in the crucible of the civil rights movement, the mural became a target of student unrest, and parts of it were severely defaced. In 1998 Public Art for Public Schools initiated the conservation of the mural and created an educational program to reexamine it s meaning and give students an opportunity to respond to it by creating a mural of their own.” (http://schools.nyc.gov)
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