The Hebron, Nebraska Post Office
The Hebron, Nebraska post office was one of 1,100 new small "Class C and D" post offices around the United States. This classification was based on construction costs. The Section of Fine Arts, a New Deal program organized in 1934 under the auspices of the Treasury Department to "provide murals and sculpture for the many federal buildings constructed" during the New Deal era.
The Treasury Department oversaw the construction of public buildings and set aside approximately one perscent of construction costs for artwork. The Section of Fine Arts, the largest and most comprehensive program to provide art for these buildings, awarded contracts to muralists on the basis of anonymously submitted designs. The Section decided that Regionalism, themes celebrating the American scene, was the genre appropriate for the murals in public buildings such as the post offices. Therefore, the themes of local agriculture, local history, industry, the family, and scenes of daily life, "executed in realistic style", were featured. Hebron's mural is a wonderful example of how Regionalism was utilized to capture the local history of the town and the state of Nebraska.
"Stampeding Buffaloes Stopping the Train" by Eldora Lorenzini,1939
Eldora Lorenzini studied at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. She matched the color of the buffalo hides to the wood framing the doorway to the postmaster's office, making the mural a part of the endwall of the lobby. She did other murals in Colorado and Washington, D.C. and worked as a decorator, printmaker, and illustrator. In Nebraska, a commission for painting a mural in a post office ranged from $570.00 to $1,300. Eldora received $670.00 for this mural. She lived at the YWCA until she received her money for her work.
Eldora Lorenzini did lots of local research before painting this mural. In fact, she went to the zoo to study buffalo, but she reported that her visit was not very successful because the "buffalo were molting".
Section Chief Rowan and his assistants critiqued preliminary sketches and made suggestions aboiut composition and specific details. Eldora Lorenzini had received approval for a theme of buffalo stampeding a train. Rowan criticized the "anatomical lessons" of the bison in her sketch and the depiction of a skinned buffalo. He felt that such elements "did not represent good taste for the decoration of a post office."
Local communities had no control over whether they received a mural or its content. The public did, however, comment on the completed art after it was installed! Nebraska's 12 murals were generally received with great enthusiasm by local citizens with the exception of the Valentine mural. In fact, the residents of Hebron assisted in installation of this mural, and became big fans of Eldora.
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