Union WPA Mural

This 1937 Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural, by artist Edgar Yaeger, was originally part of a triptych located in the Public Lighting Commission Building in downtown Detroit. It was removed when the building was destroyed and replaced by the Renaissance Center in the 1960’s. Though the complete mural was discovered behind wood paneling, only two of the sections, including this one, were in good enough condition to be salvaged.

As for the composition, Yaeger chose scenes relating to the history of light: the discovery of fire, Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity, and Thomas Edison and the invention of the incandescent light bulb. This final section was donated by the artist to the Kresge Art Museum and is on long-term loan to the MSU Union. It depicts Thomas Edison, on the right, working in his laboratory inventing the light bulb. The large female figure with streaming hair symbolizes light and optimism.

This mural is an excellent example of the modernist style that Yaeger employed for his WPA commissions.

(Source: Kresge Art Museum archives)

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