Historian will discuss WPA murals created in Milford

Art Historian Amy Trout will discuss Works Progress Administration art in Milford when she visits the library this month.

Several art projects, including a painting now hanging in Mayor Ben Blake’s office, were commissioned in Milford as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program.

Several Merritt Parkway bridges also were built by the WPA.

Trout will bring to life the work done under the Works Project Administration Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Milford Library. She’ll discuss the Federal Arts Project in Connecticut, the works commissioned in Milford, those that have been found and the art that is still missing.

Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the WPA during the Great Depression.

The programs of the Federal Art Project spawned a new awareness of and appreciation for American art. They also provided jobs for needy out-of-work artists as well as art for non-federal government buildings, such as schools, hospitals and libraries.

Under the Federal Art Project, the visual arm of the WPA, artists created more than 200,000 posters, prints, sculptures, paintings, drawings and murals, which were then, in turn, loaned to schools, libraries, galleries and other institutions.

In Connecticut, some 160 artists created over 5,000 pieces of art.

To qualify for work under the program, artists had to meet the professional standards as artists, and also the  requirements of their state WPA relief board. After being selected to be on the project, artists were reviewed periodically and could be removed from a project if their financial status changed or if their work was unsatisfactory.

The federal government usually paid the artists’ salaries, about $1 an hour, while local towns and cities allocated dollars for supplies and other miscellaneous expenses.

Among the works commissioned in Milford that have been located are the mural “They Shall Pass This Way But Once” by Frank Rutkoski and Louis Agostini, which once hung in the lobby of the Central Grammar School; “The Ship,” an oil by Rolston Keeler, which has been restored and hangs in the mayor’s office, and an untitled oil by Cornelia Vetter. Additional works of the period have been found, including four murals by Wendell Austin.

The lecture is part of Milford Arts Council’s Adopt-a-Mural fund-raising effort to restore a fragment of “They Shall Pass This Way But Once.” When restored, the mural  will hang in the library.

“We are delighted to be working jointly with the Milford Public Library on presenting this information to the  community,” said Arts Council Director Paige Miglio. “And we are grateful to the Friends of Milford Library for funding this lecture.”