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Municipal Center

Washington, DC

Interior open-air courtyard wall frieze

Health and Welfare, 1941

Commissioned by: Nathan C. Wyeth for the WPAArtistic Collaborator: KlimoMedium: glazed terra cotta tileExecuted by: Atlantic Terra Cotta Company

Health and Welfare in east open-air courtyard

Health and Welfare in east open-air courtyard

Health and Welfare, Hildreth Meière’s eighty-one-foot Art Deco frieze in glazed terra cotta, decorates the back wall of the east interior open-air courtyard at the Municipal Center in Washington, DC. Meière was awarded the project through a competition sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A frieze on the wall of the west interior open-air courtyard was designed by Waylande Gregory.

In a series of ten narrative vignettes, the frieze depicts the health benefits and social services available to Washington residents in 1941:1

A social worker helps a mother with two children

A social worker helps a mother with two children

A physician and nurse give medical aid to a family

A physician and nurse give medical aid to a family

Food inspection

Food inspection

Two chemists in a laboratory

Two chemists in a laboratory

A municipal hospital

A municipal hospital

A geriatrics ward

A geriatrics ward

Two families apply for social services

Two families apply for social services

An inspector watches bricklayers

An inspector watches bricklayers

A physician examines two patients

A physician examines two patients

A couple applies to adopt a boy

A couple applies to adopt a boy

Klimo, a sculptor at the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, executed the figures in contrasting blocks of color in high and sunken relief:

Hildreth Meière and Klimo in front of a section of Health and Welfare at the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, 1941

Hildreth Meière and Klimo in front of a section of Health and Welfare at the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, 1941

As with every medium for which Meière designed, she relied upon trained craftsmen to execute her cartoons. Collaboration was key to a work’s success. Meière was lavish in her praise of sculptor Klimo at the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company. As she explained during an interview in 1941:

The designer appreciates the contribution the good craftsman makes; he is not jealous of it but prays for the greater glory that creative craftsmanship can bring to the work.2
1

See descriptions by James M. Goode, The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974): 226, and a full discussion of the frieze in Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014):172-77.

2

Ernest W. Watson, ”Hildreth Meière, Mural Painter: An Interview with Illustrations of Her Work,” American Artist 5: 7 (September 1941): 8.

Commission Location

Emblem

Henry P. Daly Building
(Municipal Building)
301 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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