Mid-century Story Prompts Modern Search for Ceramic Mural

One thing Frans Wildenhain is known for are the murals – or “mosaics” or “friezes,” as some call them – he created, designed and installed in public spaces.

At RIT, for instance, his “Allegory of a Landscape” greets visitors to Ingle Auditorium, located in the Student Alumni Union.

“Greets” might be imprecise as the entryway to Ingle is pretty dark. Some have called it “a cave.” The photograph of the mural presented on the Art on Campus site is a well-lit one: http://artoncampus.rit.edu/art/34/

Other Wildenhain murals are located at what was once Strasenburgh Laboratories on Jefferson Road, outside of Rochester, NY (the round, central “medallion” of that mural is shown on the Wildenhain exhibit website’s gallery of images); at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ; and at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD. Each has a science/medicine theme.

And each mural noted above has been reported on in other sources.

But I read a report published in a December 4, 1953 issue of the RIT student newspaper, Reporter, stating that Wildenhain and his students were creating “a mosaic mural that may be twenty feet long . . . to add life and movement to the main waiting room” of a (then) new Irondequoit, NY school.

This is what happens when you go 30 or 40 pages into a Google search. You find stuff.

All right, I thought, where is this mural I have never heard of? I checked with the Town of Irondequoit Historian, Ms. Patricia Wayne. Her research revealed that the Arlington Swarts Wing of Durand Eastman School was the likely location.

I wrote that school’s principal, Ms. Lori Roe, and she allowed me to visit. (And, if you haven’t been at an elementary school recently – as I haven’t in, say, 50 years – it is . . . interesting. Guess what? The kids no longer wear ankle-length dresses or ties!)

No luck there: no mural. One employee at the school, who had been a pupil there in the early 60s, didn’t recall ever seeing a ceramic mural.

Maybe it was at two other buildings, both no longer schools. One, the Abraham Lincoln school, was converted to apartments; the other, on Helendale Road, is now a professional office building.

Nope, no mural at either one of those locations.

Of course, it is possible the newspaper report I read was forecasting something never created or that was never installed.

Or, the mural was installed but was later demolished during subsequent building renovations.

Or, I just haven’t yet found the correct building. Yet.

Any ideas?

The best part of putting together this exhibit and catalogue on Wildenhain is the discovery. For instance, Sue Weisler, the project’s photographer and, apparently, super-sleuth private investigator, ferreted out a colorful and modest-sized Wildenhain mural commissioned for a private residence! She won’t tell any more – for me, this is worse than being on Dean Wormer’s “double secret probation.”

You’ll see pictures of the Weisler discovery in the Wildenhain exhibition catalogue. Plus another heretofore undocumented Wildenhain mural.

3 comments on “Mid-century Story Prompts Modern Search for Ceramic Mural

  1. Ken Poole on said:

    there is a very unpublicized mural at Lock Haven College in Pa.?

  2. Bruce Austin on said:

    I don’t know that a Frans Wildenhain mural is at the University. In his personal notebooks, though, Wildenhain more than once refers to a mural in Lock Haven and writes that he is traveling to the city about the project. As with the Irondequoit, NY mural cited in the blog, the Lock Haven notations may be about plans for a mural or a discussion regarding a mural.

  3. Bruce Austin on said:

    Check out Wendy Stiver’s recent article about Frans Wildenhain’s “hiding in plain sight” Lock Haven University mural: http://www.lockhaven.com/page/content.detail/id/538770/-Lost–Mural.html?nav=5164

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