Charles Davis - Progress of Industry 6
The Richmond County courts are home to two set of murals, one by Axel Horn, a New York-based artist, and another by Charles Davis, an African American artist based in Chicago. The murals were painted in 1937-38 under the auspices of the Federal Arts Project.
There are six murals by Davis, in egg tempura on Masonite panels. Davis titled his murals The Progress of American Industry, with the following themes:
- Railroad Builders
- Steel Workers
- Bridge Builders
The murals have have been moved several times. They were originally installed in a large workshop for the benefit of the indigent residents at the Farm Colony, which was across the road from Seaview Hospital. When the Farm Colony closed, the murals were moved to Seaview Hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium. When that facility closed they remained in one of the Seaview Buildings, which was run as a nursing home. When the nursing home closed, the murals were warehoused in Queens by the New York Health and Hospitals corporation.
A former nurse, Jane Lyons, one of the “Black Angels” – so called because only black nurses would take the jobs at the sanatorium to care for the diseased – became the director of nursing at the nursing home facility. Later, as a member of the Staten Island Museum board of directors, she was instrumental in getting the murals out of storage and installed at the Richmond County Court Building. Ms. Lyons passed away in 2013.
The Staten Island Museum oversaw the installation of the Davis murals in 2015 and paid for some of the emergency conservation that was needed for some of the panels.
The murals are installed in one of the court rooms and are available to the public when court is not in session. The museum added signage so visitors can get the back story of the murals.
Project originally submitted by Robert Bunkin, Curator of Art, Staten Island Museum on April 15, 2017.
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