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Edmund Lewandowski Murals Uncovered at the Flint Institute of Arts


On November 29, 2004 the Flint Institute of Arts successfully relocated one of two mosaic murals that were previously hidden. The second mural will be moved at a later date. The murals are by a significant American artist, Edmund Lewandowski, and represent subject matter that is meaningful to the region, to the city of Flint, and to the FIA.

The murals were covered over with drywall in a previous renovation when the museum "modernized" its interior. The FIA uncovered the murals this year during the demolition stage of its $12.6 million renovation. Both murals were situated on walls that were scheduled for demolition to make way for expanded art storage and additional public space. During the demolition process, walls covering the murals were removed enabling curators to assess the condition. The murals were found to be in excellent condition, aesthetically of the highest quality, and executed with outstanding craftsmanship. The murals were scheduled to be destroyed, but once the Institute's board of trustees learned of this, they were unanimous in their decision to save the murals. (right: Edmund Lewandowski mural being relocated at Flint Institute of Arts. Photo courtesy of Flint Institute of Arts)

The murals, "Industrialization of Flint" (10' x 18') and "Spirit of Cultural Development" (10' x 16'), were created and installed in 1958 when the FIA was built. The two murals cover a total of 340 square feet with approximately 270,000 cubes of Venetian glass obtained from Italy. The 1/2" cube tiles represent nearly 500 hues, and were skillfully blended to create the composition.

The Flint Institute of Arts sought technical expertise in order to determine how best to proceed with the relocation and restoration of the murals. Recently, the murals were secured, and moved to a new location in the renovated facility, on the north and south walls of the Art School's corridor.

Before uncovering the murals, their condition was thought to be unsalvageable and the prospect of relocating them was dubious. Consequently, there was very little time to fund raise dollars needed to pay for their safe relocation. Fortunately for the Institute and the community, the Ruth Mott Foundation stepped forward to fund the enormous endeavor. The Foundation understands that these murals provide a significant and meaningful addition to celebrate not only the reopening of the museum, but also Flint's industrial and cultural heritage during its sesquicentennial in 2005.

In her article for the FIA's American Collection catalog, Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds provided the following information about the artist: The late Edmund D. Lewandowski was born in Milwaukee, where he attended the Layton School of Art from 1931 to 1934. In 1936 Edith Halpert, an important New York art dealer, invited him to join the Downtown Gallery. In the same year he became involved with painting murals for the Federal Art Project, and from 1939 to 1940 he executed murals at post offices in Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In 1947 he took a position at the Layton School of Art, his alma mater, and from 1949 through 1954 he served on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee. He then returned to Milwaukee to become director of the Layton School of Art, where he remained until 1972, when he was appointed chairman of the Art Department at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Lewandowski practiced the Precisionist mode throughout his career and extended the movement's influence to the Midwest. Like other artists working in the style, including Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Charles Demuth, and Niles Spencer, Lewandowski was interested in technology, machinery, and industrial subject matter. He recalled that "from as far back as I can recall, the cityscapes, farms, and the depiction of industrial power and technological efficiency has had a great attraction for me. Rather than present reality I try to treat these observations with personal honesty and distill these impressions to visual order." (left: Edmund Lewandowski mural being relocated at Flint Institute of Arts. Photo courtesy of Flint Institute of Arts)

Lewandowski was noted for geometricizing objects in hard-edged quasi-abstractions of machinery and industrial forms. He noted that "our machines are as representative of our culture as temples and sculpture were of the Greeks. They are classically beautiful and represent physically the material progress the nation has made." Lewandowski can be seen as a contemporary classicist for his cool rational interpretations of the artifacts of industry, which he asserts "have an esthetic impact on me such as the cathedrals might have had on artists of older times."

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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.