from Arkansas State University

For Release: Oct. 15, 2003
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Post Office Mural from Pocahontas
unveiled in ASU ceremony Oct. 20
An unveiling ceremony for a restored 1939 oil painting from Randolph County will be Monday, Oct. 20, at the Arkansas State University Museum. The public is welcome to attend the 4 p.m. ceremony, and admission is free.

The painting, “Early Days and First Post Office in Pocahontas,” was painted by Harry Louis Freund, an Arkansas artist who lived from 1905 to 1999. The painting was originally installed in 1939 at the Pocahontas Post Office. The oil on canvas was part of the U. S. Postal Service’s New Deal Arts Collection.

The art collection in Arkansas post offices was documented in the book “Post Masters: Arkansas Post Office Art in the New Deal” by John Purifoy Gill of Little Rock. Gill researched and wrote the book, which Arkansas State University published last year, because of the paintings’ significance in Arkansas’s heritage. Gill will attend the ceremony and autograph copies of his book, which will be available for purchase.

“Early Days” was commissioned for the Pocahontas Post Office by the former U. S. Department of the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, later known as the Section of Fine Arts, or simply the Section. The Treasury Department was responsible for the construction and furnishing of all Federal buildings during this period.

As a part of the decoration of postal facilities during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, artists were commissioned by the Section to create murals and sculptures for postal facilities across the country from 1934 to 1944. Unlike the Works Progress Administration program, with which it is often confused, the Section was not directed towards providing relief for artists. Instead, it sought to provide murals and sculpture for newly constructed federal buildings from project funding appropriations.

Artists were selected to create artwork under this program by means of national and regional competition. For this reason, many of the artists selected were among the most talented artists of their era with the intent of decorating new Federal buildings with the best in American art.

By the time the New Deal Arts Programs ended in 1944 due to World War II, 1,200 murals and 300 sculptures had been commissioned by the Treasury Department for placement in postal facilities. Today, it is believed that 1,000 murals and 200 sculptures remain in the Postal collection.

These murals and sculptures form a vital part of America's national heritage as they comprise the only comprehensive public collection portraying the culture and character of the American people within a given era.

The Pocahontas mural depicts several scenes of everyday life that were “close to the hearts of Pocahontas citizens.” In the lower right corner is old Davidsonville of 1817, where the first post office in Arkansas was located. The lower left corner depicts the old dam and mill at Birdell on the Eleven Point River, as it was around 1835.

The central part of the painting portrays Pocahontas around 1900, when it was a flourishing river town. Included are the old county courthouse, in the center of the square; the Biggers Hotel, at the time the largest inn between St. Louis and Little Rock; and the old Hamil residence, the first large home in town.

Harry Louis Freund was born in Clinton, Mo., on September 16, 1905. He attended Clinton High School and the University of Missouri. He also studied art at St. Louis School of Fine Arts, Washington University, Princeton University and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

He was awarded the Edmund H. Wuerpel Scholarship for Foreign Study which enabled him to travel to several countries and study in Paris at the Colorassi Academy. He also spent an extended period of time in Mexico and Central America to complement his studies. During his career Freund served as a mural designer for the State of Missouri Exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933; he was appointed Artist in Residence under the Carnegie Corporation at Hendrix College and spent World War II as the Visual Aids Director for the 8th Service Command.

Later he was an illustrator for the Ford Motor Company as well as working as a faculty member for several schools. He founded the Art Department at the Little Rock Junior College (now UALR) and served as the head of the Art Department at Hendrix College. He founded the summer Art School of the Ozarks at Eureka Springs and was an Artist in Residence at Stetson University, where he subsequently served as the head of the Art Department.

The ASU Museum, located in the west end of the Dean B. Ellis Library complex, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday hours are 1-5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call the museum at (870) 972-2074.

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