The next time you are standing in line to mail a package or renew a passport in the downtown Santa Cruz, California post office, look at the four murals high on the walls above you. Painted by the renowned artist Henrietta Shore, the murals honor local industries: farming, fishing, and limestone quarrying. They depict the laborers as “dignified, monumental forms.”
These murals, like the post office itself, were paid for by the federal government. The post office was built in 1912 with a grant from the US Treasury Department. The murals came later when they were commissioned in 1935 by the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP). It was in the depths of the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929, and TRAP was part of the New Deal initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt “to put people to work.” In this case, the people put to work were artists.
Henrietta Shore, of Carmel, submitted color sketches to TRAP, which commissioned the murals for the Santa Cruz post office. She was paid $233.74 for all four.
Unlike most artists who received TRAP grants, Henrietta Shore was not happy collecting welfare, which is how she saw the TRAP grant. She hated signing a document that said she was “destitute.” Presumably, she saw herself as an important artist who was reduced to begging.
Read the rest of the story to learn about Henrietta Shore’s life as an artist, at mobileranger.com.
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