Michigan State University: Union Building Mural – East Lansing MI


This mural is located on the first floor of the Union Building on the MSU campus.

Plaque on site: “During the Great Depression, through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program, many artists were commissioned to decorate public buildings. This mural depicting Thomas Edison’s workshop was painted by Edgar Yaeger for the Public Lighting Commission building in Detroit. The artist retrieved the mural when the building was razed in 1983 to make room for the Renaissance Center. In 1988 at the age of 84, Mr. Yaeger restored the mural with the assistance of Kat Skotarczyk. Two years later, he donated it to the Kresge Art Museum, which has placed it on long term loan in the MSU Union.”

MSU.edu: “This WPA mural, originally part of a triptych located in the Public Lighting Commission Building in downtown Detroit, was removed when the building was destroyed in the 1960s to be replaced by the Renaissance Center. The complete mural was discovered behind wood paneling, and only two of the sections, including this one, were in good enough condition to be salvaged. For this composition Yaeger chose scenes relating to the history of light: the discovery of fire, Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity, and Thomas Edison and the invention of the incandescent light bulb. This final section, which was donated by the artist to the Kresge Art Museum and is on long-term loan to the MSU Union, depicts Thomas Edison, on the right, working in his laboratory with his assistants inventing the light bulb. The large female figure with streaming hair symbolizes light and optimism. Preparatory drawings owned by the Kresge Art Museum indicate that portions of the right side of this mural are missing. Nevertheless, this mural is an excellent example of the modernist style that Yaeger employed for his WPA commissions.”

Source notes


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Location Info

Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48823

Coordinates: 42.734192, -84.482816

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