Restored WPA mural to be unveiled soon in Milford

A newly restored piece of Milford art history will be unveiled in coming weeks.

The City of Milford’s Permanent Art Collection Committee, the Milford Arts Council and the Milford Public Library invite the public to join in celebrating the unveiling of ‘We Shall Pass This Way But Once,’ the newly restored Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural, on Thursday, Oct. 6, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Milford Public Library. Light refreshments will follow the ceremony.

For 40 years, the mural greeted students as they entered Milford’s Central Grammar School on West River Street, then the town’s largest educational institution. Designed by Louis Agostini (1902-1977) and painted by Frank Rutkoski (1905-2000), both Connecticut artists, the oil-on-canvas mural was commissioned in 1937 and installed on 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 featured male and female students engaged in a variety of school activities.

The restored painting highlights the male students as well as two Milford buildings — Plymouth Church (demolished in the 1950s) and what appears to be the Sanford-Bristol House (c. 1789).

Conservators at the Williamstown Conservation Center in Williamstown, Mass., restored the mural over the past five months, including the consolidation of loose and flaking paint, thorough cleaning, filling of losses of original paint and attachment of the artwork to a new linen support.

The mural was produced under the WPA, a New Deal agency created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935. During its eight years of operation, the program employed out-of-work artists to produce artwork 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.

The Milford Public Library will run special programs in conjunction with the unveiling celebration:

Saturday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m. Enough to Live on: The Arts of the WPA, the film celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Federal Arts Projects will be shown, produced by Connecticut filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton.

Monday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Hamish Lutris, associate professor, Housatonic Community College, will talk about the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was the popular New Deal natural resources development and protection program that operated from 1933 to 1942.