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Alaska New Deal Art

Post Office Artwork in Alaska – Most of the Post Office works of art were funded through commissions under the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later known as The Section of Fine Arts) and not the WPA.

“Often mistaken for WPA art, post office murals were actually executed by artists working for the Section of Fine Arts. Commonly known as “the Section,” it was established in 1934 and administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. Headed by Edward Bruce, a former lawyer, businessman, and artist, the Section’s main function was to select art of high quality to decorate public buildings if the funding was available. By providing decoration in public buildings, the art was made accessible to all people.” from “Articles from EnRoute : Off The Wall: New Deal Post Office Murals” by Patricia Raynor

Unless indicated, works of art are located in the US Post Office building.

Location
Artist
Title
Date
Medium
Anchorage
Post Office and Courthouse 

Arthur T. Kerrick
“Alaskan Scenes”
1946
oil on wall
Wrangell
Austin Mecklem and Marianne Appel
“Old Town in Alaska”
1943
mural

 
All mural images depicted on this site are used with permission of the United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

The mural in the Anchorage Courthouse still exists. Court hearings are public, so you can see it any time court is in session. The Anchorage Post Office (now the Public Lands Information Center) mural has been painted over. Information courtesy of Kiernan Holliday.

WPA Federal Art Project in Alaska:

The WPA Alaska Art Project was organized in 1937 to publicize the territories and possessions of the United States. The 12 artists chosen were given wages of $135/month plus a travel advance of $100. Three artists brought their wives along at no extra pay. The artist supervisor of the Alaska project was Antonio Mattei of New York. The first arrivals were the Pollocks, arriving ahead of the other artists on June 4 in Ketchikan. Eleven of the artists plus two wives left Seattle on June 2, 1937, arriving in Ketchikan on June 6.

The artists were divided into four groups: Group #1 – Edwin Boyd Johnson (Chicago, IL), Vernon Smith (Massachusetts) and Prescott Jones (Massachusetts); Group #2 – Mr. and Mrs. Austin Mecklem (New York), Mr. and Mrs. Merlin Pollock (Chicago, IL), and Mrs. and Mrs. John Walley (Chicago, IL); Group #3 – Karl Fortess (Woodstock, NY), Roland Mousseau (Woodstock, NY) and Ferdinand Lo Pinto (New York, NY); and Group #4 – Arthur Kerrick (Minnesota), Tony Mattei (New York), and Carl Saxild (Massachusetts). Each group was sent to various sites in the state of Alaska, although the groups were called back to Ketchikan a month early because of poor weather. All works produced were to handled by the Treasury Relief Arts Program (TRAP), but due to a governmental fear of adverse publicity, the works of the Alaska Art Project were dispersed to schools and public facilities throughout the U.S. including several which were sent to Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon. Apparently there are nine pieces which are still in the Governor’s Mansion collection in Bethel Alaska. Some of the paintings were sent to the McKinley Park Hotel where in September 1972 a fire destroyed all of the artwork. Over 100 paintings were lost. — source: “Works Progress Administration’s Alaska Art Project 1937 – A Retrospective Exhibition,” by Lynn Binek, Karl E. Fortess, and Merlin F. Pollock, Anchorage Museum of History and Art (1987)

Article about a painting from the WPA Alaska Art Project