How to Use This MapEach icon represents a post office in Pennsylvania with a mural or sculpture featured in the Common Canvas exhibit at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Click on the icon on the map or select from the list on the right to see information about the artwork. To see a larger version of the image, click on "Full Image".
Sites with an asterisk (*) after its name in the right hand list contain a video walk-through tour given by co-curator, Curt Miner.
All photographs courtesy of the National Archives. Special thanks goes to David Lembeck and Michael Mutmansky for processing the archival images.
About the ExhibitIndependent scholar David Lembeck began researching and documenting Pennsylvania's New Deal post office art in 1995. He then teamed up with architectural photographer Michael Mutmansky to document these works of art in their original location. The artwork featured in this exhibition is based on Mutmansky's original photographs, as well as artifacts, original works of art, and archival documents culled from private and public collections around the country. Lembeck curated this exhibition with Dr. Curtis Miner, Senior Curator of History at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
About the New Deal in Pennsylvania
In 1933, the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt announced an ambitious program to place murals and sculptures in public buildings across the country. Administered by the U.S. Treasury Department through its Section of Fine Arts, the program embraced both the practical and philosophical goals of the New Deal. Artists were provided meaningful work and, in turn, original works of art were made available to ordinary Americans. The Section encouraged its artists to paint "the American scene," an approach which emphasized depictions of everyday life. To make them accessible, most artworks were installed in post office lobbies, the most public of all public buildings.
Between 1934 and 1943, Pennsylvania received 94 commissions, a number second only to New York. The artwork, which included both murals and sculptures, was widely distributed across the state and represented a broad cross-section of Pennsylvania communities, from rural hamlets and mining towns to urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Each commission aimed to capture something intrinsically important about the community for which it was created. As a result, Pennsylvania's collection is unusually diverse. The artworks featured in this exhibition have been organized into five major themes: Agriculture, Coal & Steel, History, Town & Country, and Industry. Each featured artwork is also identified by the town for which it was commissioned.
In celebrating the dignity of everyday life, Treasury Department murals were intended to lift the spirits of a Depression-weary America. Today, these same artworks—brought together for the first time in this special exhibition—offer a common canvas of a Pennsylvania that has faded from the landscape, but not from memory.
Support for the Exhibit
A Common Canvas is supported in part with grants from the Auchincloss Family Fund of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities (FEC) on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. S. Sloan Auchincloss and the Shearer Family Fund of FEC on behalf of R. Scott and Kathy T. Shearer. In cooperation with Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation™ and the Friends of the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
State Museum of Pennsylvania- The Common Canvas exhibit ran here through May 17, 2009.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission- The official history agency of Pennsylvania.
PAtrailsofhistory.com- Information about the 25 historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History.