An Artistic Soul?

fisheyelaneI have never possessed an artistic soul–not consciously, at least. I like action moves and adventure stories. Give me some Louis L’Amor and Jack London, and I’m good to go. For movies, the Mummy and Independence Day. I thought Alien was high art, and Tremors is genius.  Excuse me…

Honey, if you keep rolling your eyes, they’re going to freeze that way.

I’m back.  I was going to say, before the interruption, that as artistically challenged as my soul may be, I am genuinely moved by the art that adorned my high school.  You read that right.  Lane Technical High School towers like a Dickensian factory over the well-traveled route to Chicago’s Wrigely Field.  Today, its student body hovers over 4,000.  In my day, almost 5,000.

Lane has a 100 year+ history, glorious both for academics and athletics. But one feature in its history has gone almost overlooked, until recently:

Hallway art.

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Yep. Gigantic murals, 20 feet long, adorning the hallways of an ancient Chicago Public High School.  I remember feeling small when I looked at them. Sixty-six works that captured in freeze-frame the dawn of the industrial age.  The murals date to the 1930’s and before. The pictures on this page don’t do them justice.  Check here for more details.

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woodrelEach one tells a story. Each one triggers memory.  The murals were restored in the 1990’s, and are currently on display in the Chicago Cultural Center (itself, an architectural work of art). I have thought of them lately, and found some online. I find them moving. I’m sure there’s a touch of nostalgia here, but that’s not all.  I love them. Maybe because they tell of an era when everything seemed possible and we were all optimists.  Maybe because they’re amazing expressions of talent.  Or maybe because they’re simply beautiful.

Maybe, I dig art after all, and have never realized it. Maybe, as I’m growing older, I’m also growing more mature.

Yeah.  That’s it… I do have an artistic soul.  Excuse me…

Thanks, Babe. Be right there!

American Idol is on.  Gotta run.

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2 thoughts on “An Artistic Soul?

  1. Bill…

    Fascinating.

    As an alumnus of the same school, I never realized that these murals were the images of the humanism and socialism of the late 19th century. The school was built in the Depression era, and, interestingly enough, during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, a celebration to industry and humanism like the previous 1894 event. During FDR’s administration — the New Deal and Social Security — there was a wide socialist appeal to the intervention of government. Thus, the construction of the school employed a lot of people. (This cover of this week’s Newsweek magazine is hearkening us back to that era of socialism.) These murals essentially captured the “zeitgeist” of the time–science, hard work, thrift, and loyaty to nation… The images and allusions to the WWII industrial complex were very thinly-veiled, and as an ROTC cadet strutting the halls in uniform at the time, I had felt a very warm radiance from these murals.

    Oddly enough, as late as 1987 (when Japan had already made large advances in the automotive industry, technology, and quality standards), the school was still teaching obsolete “trade” skills such as woodshop, foundry, or machining skills. Today I understand that these “trades” have been replaced by computers and other high tech classes… thus the school today has preserved its eponymous namesake, “Lane Tech”…

    By the way, Bill, I do recall that you had graduated 33rd in your senior class of over 900…? And Mr. Bob G. was one behind you, wasn’t he…? (smile) 🙂

    Grace,
    Joe

  2. Joe,

    Add 2 zeroes after the 1 and you got it right. 1300+ in the 1976 graduating class, though.

    Nice discussion about those murals. When we were at Lane Tech, the murals were in the process of being “rediscovered” and restored. Many WPA era buildings in Chicago had such artwork, and it went under-appreciated. Many were painted-over, some walls were demolished, many had water or structural damage. Some of them were frescoes, and the plaster was badly cracked. Others had new walls built over the top of them. I’m glad that somebody had the vision to rescue this great artwork, so that future generations of students could ignore it like I did. 🙂

    Hey. ROTC, huh? Are you a pastor, too? Do I detect a trend?

    Bob G

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