WPA Mural Studies

The Case:

History Detectives searches for connections between a collection of unusual paintings and the largest job creation program in America's history.

FDR’s New Deal work programs will put more than 8 million back to work. And not everyone is laying roads and mixing cement – the program also employs over 40,000  in various arts projects. This unprecedented harnessing of artistic talent will create thousands of paintings, sculptures and murals for public buildings across the country. But today, nearly a third of this artwork is missing. What happened to these important pieces of our nation’s history?

Evelyn Cook of Molalla, Oregon, has inherited some paintings that may be part of this lost work. Created by her aunt, Thelma Johnson Streat, she believes they were mural studies commissioned by the WPA in the 1930’s or 1940’s. The color illustrations depict contributions of African Americans in the fields of medicine, transportation and industry.

Did any of these studies become murals and do any of Streat's murals still exist?

Discuss this story

Season 7, Episode 9

Elyse Luray Location:
Molalla, Oregon

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