Mural Detail of FDR and Society LeadersDetail showing the picnic scene from the ILGWU’s play Pins and Needles; modern garment-factory workers; and allegorical figure of Achievement.
The High School of Fashion Industries (formerly the Central High School of Needle Trades) is a New Deal building, which contains a well-known mural by Ernest Fiene. It is commonly believed to be a WPA Arts Project mural, but Gerald Markowitz, co-author of A New Deal for Art (1977), assures us that it is not, even though the spirit of the painting is so typically New Deal. We have left it on our map because of the common confusion, which this may help allay.
“In Manhattan, the fledgling coalition of government, industry, and organized labor created the Central High School of Needle Trades (now the High School of Fashion Industries). The founders commissioned Ernest Fiene to paint a mural for their new building’s auditorium. Completed in 1940, Fiene’s History of the Needlecraft Industry positions the Triangle fire at a critical juncture between the exploitative labor conditions characteristic of the early garment industry and the strong worker protections ushered in by unionism and New Deal legislation in the 1930s. Fiene’s mural, executed in fresco secco, comprises two monumental panels, each measuring 17 feet high by 65 feet wide. The first panel, ‘Victory of Light Over Darkness,’ depicts the early years of the industry, while ‘Harmony and Achievement’ portrays a new vision of society in which labor joins the governing coalition. The mural functions, in Fiene’s words, ‘as a lesson in democracy to the young.'” (greyartgallery.nyu.edu)
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE