National & Regional WPA Influence
The Artists of the 306 W. 141st St. Art Center, Harlem, NY
Harlem Hospital Center was the first WPA commission for African-American Artists in the country | Photo: New York Public Library
With the “stamp” of approval from the Postmaster General, the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee selected the WPA era as a new subject for commemorative stamps – in a process that considers about 50,000 ideas a year, most of which come from the American public.
The WPA Posters Forever stamps honor how art inspired a nation. Two Norwalk-based post offices, one on Belden Avenue and one in South Norwalk, house WPA-era murals.
“Pursuit of Happiness” Mural Series
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On a regional level, while manufacturing was prevalent in Norwalk, healthcare was a major source of employment in most metropolitan cities. The images ABOVE represent Vertis Hayes’s seven-panel “Pursuit of Happiness” mural series that spans two walls of the New Nurses Residence at Harlem Hospital Center. Vertis Hayes, an Atlanta transplant living and working in New York, became a master artist on the Harlem Hospital Center murals. At age 25, he had already worked for the WPA as an assistant on the lobby of a high school building that is now part of the Parsons School of Design. He was one of the only members of the hospital team who had experience as a muralist rather than as an easel painter.
The work of his entire set of panels chronologically follows an arc of African-American history, and transports the viewer from Africa to America, from an African village to an American city. In addition, the mural depicts the migration of African-Americans from their agrarian Southern roots to their industrialized Northern homelands.
Luman P. Kelsey: WPA Artist