Old Town School of Folk Music
The Children's World, 1937

Old Town School of Folk Music (formerly Hild Branch Public Library)
4544 North Lincoln Avenue

Oil on canvas, two murals, 9' x 34' each
Artist: Francis F. Coan (1914-80)
Commissioned by: the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project
Restored by: the Old Town School of Folk Music, 1997-98

Built as a library in 1929-31, this handsome art deco structure was closed in 1984 when the Sulzer Regional Library was constructed nearby to replace it. It was named for Frederick C. Hild, head librarian of the Chicago Public Library system from 1887 to 1909. In 1998 it opened as the new home of the Old Town School of Folk Music, founded in 1957 as a nonprofit organization "dedicated to the teaching and presenting of traditional and contemporary folk music, dance, and arts." The dramatic reuse of the space, its imaginative plan designed by Wheeler/ Kearns, includes a repositioning of the two large WPA murals from the walls of the second-story children's reading room of the original library. Removed and restored, they have been remounted on the proscenium of the concert hall and in the Joan and Irving Harris corridor gallery on the second floor. The building is decorated with colors chosen from these brightly hued murals. Both murals contain scenes from children's literature and recreational activities, with descriptive legends below. Inscribed under the first mural is "Enjoy Toys. The World We Live In. Making Airplanes. Boats. Books Tell Us of King Arthur. Costume and Pioneer Days. Building Skyscrapers. Electricity." And the words under the second mural are "Steel. Streamlined Trains. We Watch Waterfalls. We Read About Robin Hood and Rip Van Winkle. We Love a Circus With Animals." In prominent new positions in their old home, the murals take on a special significance as a link between past and present.

Old Town School of Folk Music, The Children's World, two panels: second floor paenl shown. Photographs by Ted Lacey, courtesy of Hedrich Blessing, murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project.

An image from A Guide to Chicago's Murals by Mary Lackritz Gray

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