Depression-era mural will be restored and displayed at library

Milford will be restoring some of its WPA murals. The murals were commissioned in the 1930s.

Milford will be restoring some of its WPA murals. The murals were commissioned in the 1930s.

A large fragment of the mural called “They Shall Pass This Way But Once,” which for nearly 40 years hung in the entrance to the Central Grammar School on West River Street, will be restored and hung on a prominent wall in the Milford Public Library.

The announcement, made by Christine Angeli, director of the Milford Public Library, and Paige Miglio, director of the Milford Arts Council, coincided with the launch of a campaign by the Milford Arts Council to raise funds to restore the mural fragment.

The mural was created years ago as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, which operated from 1935 to 1943.

“We are excited to be part of this project to save Milford’s historic WPA art,” said Angeli. “Several other Connecticut communities have restored WPA art hanging in their libraries, where it can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. We are looking forward to working on other aspects of this project with the Milford Arts Council, including assisting with research and displaying material on WPA art in the library.”

The mural is part of the city’s permanent art collection for which the Arts Council is the trustee.

“We can think of no better place to house our precious mural fragment than in the Milford Public Library, or a better partner with whom to work on programs in the future,” Miglio said. “We will work diligently to raise the dollars needed to restore and stabilize this piece of Milford’s art history, so that it can soon be enjoyed by all our citizens and visitors.”

Donations for the restoration of the mural can be made online at the Milford Arts Center site, milfordarts.org/visual-arts/adopt-a-mural/donate-to-adopt-a-mural. Checks can be sent to Adopt-A- Mural, Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue South, Milford, CT. 06460.

The oil on canvas painting, designed by Frank Rutkoski and painted by Louis Agostini, once greeted students at Central Grammar School on West River Street.

Designed to cover the wall at the school’s entrance, it was commissioned in 1937, installed on April 2, 1940 and remained until the school was demolished in 1986. The large fragment was rescued by Milford Arts Council’s first director William Meddick, an artist with a lifelong interest in WPA art, and then Board of Education Arts Coordinator Frank Vespi.

Featuring male students at school, the mural’s background shows the Plymouth Church, which was demolished back in the 1950s and what appears to be the Sanford-Bristol House. The mural fragment has been stored in a Board of Education office since it was rescued.

The WPA was started by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It employed struggling out-of work artists during the Great Depression. Artists competed to create murals in public properties such as post offices, schools, museums, hospitals, housing projects and colleges. In Connecticut, some 160 artists created over 5,000 pieces of art.

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