The Coit Tower Murals: Visual Feast, Political Controversy, Decades of Neglect, and a Spectacular Restoration

A lecture with Professor Emeritus Robert Cherny

Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Presidio Interfaith Chapel

The murals at Coit Tower were completed 85 years ago, in the early summer of 1934. They were, at the time, the largest art project funded by the New Deal, and they influenced other New Deal art across the country. On Thursday, October 3 Robert Cherny will give us a virtual tour of the murals, tell us about the controversy at the time they were completed (spoiler: it involved a hammer and sickle), and describe the decades of neglect and vandalism that followed as well as the most recent restoration of the murals. Coit Tower is currently being considered as a National Historic Landmark because of the significance of the murals.

Robert Cherny is professor emeritus of history at San Francisco State University. He is the author of Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art (2017), “The Controversy at Coit Tower in 1934,” The Argonaut (Summer 2017), and “San Francisco’s New-Deal Murals in Long-term Perspective: Controversy, Neglect, and Restoration,” forthcoming in California History (February 2020). He is also co-author of the recent nomination of Coit Tower as a National Historic Landmark.

The Inter-Faith Center at the Presidio, originally the Protestant Chapel, is the site of a spectacular mural of its own, by Victor Arnautoff, who was technical coordinator at Coit Tower. Arnautoff’s assistants at the Presidio Chapel included several of the Coit Tower artists. Come a few minutes early to admire that mural, which depicts the history and contemporary (1934-35) activities of the Presidio. Following the formal presentation, Cherny will be happy to take questions and comments about Coit Tower, the Presidio Chapel mural, or the current controversy over the murals at George Washington High School


California and the West Events

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento, a tour of Marin Civic Center, and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken.

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

Tuesday, November 19,  1:00 pm, at the home of Joanne Lafler in Oakland. We will begin reading Long Day's Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, December 8,  1:30 pm, at the home of Jim Gasperini in Kensington. Cathy Robbins will present.

Public Programs

Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...

Next World History Meeting:

Please contact Lyn Reese for information.  

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 

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We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history

 

 

Member News

Welcome to our newest members: Elise Ackerman, Kevin Knauss, Pam Peirce, and Anne Schnoebelen. Learn about them under Member Profiles.

Members' Recent Activities:

Taryn Edwards has an article in the latest Argonaut (Journal of the San Francisco Historical Society) on “Before the Midwinter Fair: The Mechanics’ Institute’s ‘Pacific Rim’ Industrial Exhibitions of 1869 and 1871."

In October Peter Stansky and his co-author Fred Leventhal are publishing with the Oxford University Press Leonard Woolf: Bloomsbury Socialist. In April, Peter published an “Afterword” to Elisabeth de Waal’s Milton Place (Persephone Books), a novel written shortly after the war but hitherto unpublished. “It came to light through a meeting I had with her grandson, Edmund de Waal, author of the highly regarded memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes.”

Christopher L. Webber has just published Christian Psalms for Worship and Prayer. “The
traditional psalms written between two and three thousand years ago are an irreplaceable treasure,” Christopher writes, “but they can create problems for modern users. They come from an age unimaginably different from ours and take for granted patterns of life unfamiliar to most of us. To supplement, not replace, these psalms, I have taken passages from the writings of some of the greatest Christian teachers of every era, for example, St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and restructured them in the poetic style of the Biblical psalms which rhyme ideas, rather than sounds, to provide texts that can be used either in formal worship or in private meditation.”

In May, as part of the series of talks for the Supporters of the Museum of Russian Culture, Maria Sakovich presented “Russian Choral Music in San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s: Cultural Riches and Cultural Sharing.” She was very pleased to have Rob Robbins in the audience. In the June 22 issue of Russian Life her talk from last year in the same series was published with photos: “Last Steps of a Long Journey – First Steps of a New Life” (part of a panel presentation about the USAT Merritt’s 1923 Russian refugee-emigrant passengers). Anatol Smelov kindly translated the article from English to Russian.

Ann Harlow wrote an article about the history of Berkeley’s City Hall for the Berkeley Historical Society newsletter and is working with a group on a self-guided history walking tour of Solano Avenue. She recently attended the Conference of California Historical Societies in Placerville, as did Peter Meyerhof.

Jody/Judith Offer writes that she is “enjoying readings and some sales of her new
‘soon-to-become-history’ chapbook, The Grating of America, about the disastrous consequences of our current administration and some of the people fighting it. Copies are available at several bookstores in Oakland and Berkeley and online. If you have any ideas for bookstores, clubs, or churches/synagogues that might schedule a reading, please contact me."

Congratulations to Our 2018 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Jim Gasperini, for editing and other expenses in preparation of a book manuscript with the working title Fire in the Mind: How We Imagined the Non-Living Relative that Gave Us Control of the World.
Richard Hurley, to revise and reprint panels of a traveling exhibit, California in the Civil War.
Joe Miller, for research, editing and illustrations for an article, “Wild Women Suffragists and the Sex Scandals that Almost Sank the Movement.”

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to webmaster@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.

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We welcome all men and women who have a commitment to historical study, which may be demonstrated in one or more of the following ways...

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Institute for Historical Study
P.O. Box 5743
Berkeley, CA 94705
info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org

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