Milford to unveil 1940 WPA mural
MILFORD >> “We Shall Pass This Way But Once,” the city’s newly restored Works Progress Administration mural, will be unveiled 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Milford Public Library, 57 New Haven Ave.
The public is invited to join the ceremony by the city’s Permanent Art Collection Committee, the Milford Arts Council and the Milford Public Library.
The mural was installed for 40 years at Central Grammar School downtown, then-Milford’s largest educational institution.
Designed by Louis Agostini (1902-1977) and painted by Frank Rutkoski (1905-2000), both from Connecticut, the oil-on-canvas mural was commissioned in 1937 and installed April 2, 1940.
When the school was being demolished in 1986, Bill Meddick, then-executive director of Milford Arts Center, and Frank Vespi, Board of Education arts coordinator, rescued a large portion of the mural.
The full mural included boys and girls engaged in a variety of school activities.
The restored painting highlights the boys, as well as two Milford buildings: Plymouth Church, demolished in the 1950s; and what may be the Sanford-Bristol House, c. 1789.
The mural will hang permanently in a gallery space between the library’s two floors.
The cost of the restoration was about $20,000, said Marion Morra, curator of the Milford Permanent Art Collection.
The volunteer Permanent Art Collection Committee has been working for about four years to research the project and raise the funds, she said.
Benefits for the project included dinners, an auction and book fairs.
Also, donations were received from residents, civic organizations, sponsors, grants, an online fundraiser and speaking engagements, Morra said.
The library will run programs in conjunction with the unveiling:
► • Saturday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m., screeing of “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA,” celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Federal Arts Projects, produced by Connecticut filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton. ◄ • Saturday, Oct. 1, all day, Children may stop at the library and color a person cutout of you to add to the temporary children’s mural, in honor of the Milford Arts Council’s WPA mural restoration project.
Simple art supplies will be out all day, or until the mural is finished.
• Saturday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m., free screening of “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA,” featuring more than 70 works of art, by artistssuch as Rockwell Kent, Dorothea Lange, Stuart Davis and Reginald Marsh, and rare footage of WPA artists at work.
The film tells how the New Deal brought art directly to the American people as an inspiration and catalyst for change and recovery.
The film was produced by Connecticut filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton.
• Monday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Hamish Lutris, associate professor, Housatonic Community College, talk on “The WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps,” detailing the founding of the programs, their effect on America, and specifically on Connecticut, and the results still visible.
Conservators at the Williamstown Conservation Center in Williamstown, Mass., restored the mural for five months.
Work included the consolidation of loose and flaking paint, cleaning, filling of losses of original paint, and attachment of the artwork to a new linen support.
The mural was created under the WPA, a New Deal agency created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935.
During its eight years, the WPA employed out-of-work artists to produce art for public properties, including post offices, schools, museums, hospitals, housing projects and colleges.
In Connecticut, 160 artists created more than 5,000 pieces of WPA art.
For details, call the Arts Council at 203-878-6647.