The City of Santa Monica has been awarded $113,241 by the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) to underwrite the conservation and installation of the historic Stanton Macdonald-Wright murals in the new Santa Monica Main Public Library.
For some years, the murals, which MacDonald-Wright painted specifically for the original Main Library, were held by the Smithsonian Istitution. They were only recently returned to Santa Monica.
The funding was made possible under Proposition 40, which called for the creation of the CCHE to provide grants in support of the acquisition, development, preservation and interpretation of artifacts, buildings, sites and places that preserve and demonstrate culturally significant aspects of California history.
Santa Monica is one of 13 recipients.
Originally created and installed in the reading room of the Library in 1935, the series of murals is entitled “Technical and Imaginative Pursuits of Early Man.” It was the first federally funded mural project to be completed in Southern California under the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP, 1993-34), the precursor to the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
In 1964, when the original library at Fifth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard was demolished and the new library opened at Sixth and Santa Monica, the murals were transferred to the Smithsonian where they were placed in storage.
The series of 38 painted plywood panels details the evolution of the creative arts and sciences, beginning with the Stone Age and culminating with the motion picture industry.
The City has collaborated with the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) to arrange for the return of the panels to Santa Monica for installation in the new library, which is scheduled to open in January 2006.
A son of the manager of the Arcadia Hotel that overlooked the beach in Santa Monica, Stanton Macdonald Wright (1890-1973) grew up here, attended Santa Monica High School and went on to become a major American painter. Several years ago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art mounted a retrospective of his work.
The library murals are one part of a trio of works that MacDonald-Wright, an internationally known modernist, did in public buildings in Santa Monica. He also painted a mural in Santa Monica City Hall and two works in Barnum Hall on the Santa Monica High School campus.
MacDonald-Wright’s brother, Williard Huntington-Wright, was an esteemed art critic who found fame as mystery writer S.S. Van Dine, creator of the erudite detective Philo Vance.City matching funds in excess of $115,000 will be provided for the project.