Art for the Public Opens May 29


Art for the Public: Rediscovering WPA-era Artwork in Aurora, an exhibit featuring images and pieces of Works Progress Administration-funded art projects in the city, will open Friday, May 29, at the Aurora Public Arts Commission in the David L. Pierce Art and History building at 20 E. Downer Pl. in downtown Aurora.


Established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA is credited with helping to pull the nation out of the depths of the Depression by employing millions on public works projects, including thousands of artists, musicians, writers, actors and directors for fine arts projects.  Art for the Public highlights some of the ongoing research, recent discoveries, and mysteries yet to be solved surrounding the artwork created in Aurora by WPA artists.


Art for the Public features images of many WPA murals that were created for Aurora, with a special focus on schools in the East and West Aurora School Districts. On display will be a portion of a 1934 mural by WPA artist Paul Stoddard, painted in the former West Aurora High School that has since been demolished. The mural, which depicts the story of writing, is currently undergoing restoration.


Images of “Landing of the Pilgrims,” a ‘lost’ mural on canvas painted by Emmanuel Jacobson in 1937 in Freeman Elementary School, will also be on display. Curator Mary Ann Signorelli calls the mural “one of the most exciting discoveries” among Aurora’s WPA artworks, after searches by Signorelli and school staff, armed with just an old photo of the mural, came up short. Its whereabouts in the school were a mystery until fifth-grade teacher Faith Greising spotted some chipped paint and called Signorelli. Portions of the brightly colored mural were spotted above the drop ceiling, while everything below remains coated in several layers of paint.


Following the discovery, Greising said Freeman’s staff and students were eager to restore the treasure hidden in their walls.


“There was tons of buzz and chatter, and of course this super excited teacher telling them the story,” Greising said. “They were really excited about the Freeman mystery! They want to fix it, restore it, and share it with everyone.”


Art for the Public opens Friday, May 29, with a reception, including light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Aurora Public Arts Commission. The exhibit will be on display from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, through Sept. 1 in the first floor gallery at the Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Place. There is no charge.


The Aurora Public Art Commission is a civic organization dedicated to the presentation of all forms of public art.  For more information on the Commission or the gallery visit the City of Aurora’s website at