Canton Ohio (August 2017): The thirteen murals by Glen Shaw celebrating the steelmaking industry and located in downtown Canton will shortly be receiving much needed murals conservation work by Cleveland area art conservation center McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory of Oberlin, Ohio. Obtaining the needed funds has been a challenge but have now been obtained.
McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory has been involved with these important murals during the 1990’s on a maintenance basis. Now, with accumulating past building issues such as water infiltration, they have been in need of a more comprehensive conservation attention.
They last received murals conservation attention in 1998 for minor but disfiguring surface issues. The lead conservator for the upcoming major conservation project will be mural expert Stefan Dedecek of McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory. From his past maintenance work on these murals, he has an understanding and intimate knowledge of their complex and sensitive surface media.
The now 80 year old murals celebrating a key Ohio regional industry were commissioned in 1937 under the Treasury Relief Act (TRAP) which operated between 1935 and 1938 as a federal relief program for unemployed artists. Ohio has a proud tradition of steelmaking, being the center of the industry from the 1930 to 1970.
These murals depicting the pre-war steelmaking may be specific to mills (or a particular mill) once operating in Canton, Ohio (Republic Steel Corporation maintains its headquarters in Canton) or more generally representing mills that were active in Akron, Youngstown and Cleveland as well. “Its (Ohio’s) access to the Great Lakes, network of navigable rivers, and rich deposits of coal and iron literally helped to build a nation.”
The artistic quality is very high and quite unique, presenting a style almost like large-scale colored pencil drawings. They are composed of oil paint, charcoal, metal leaf and local, intentional coatings on canvas adhered to the walls surrounding what was once the lobby of the Post Office that occupied the building. Later, the building became a federal building under the charge of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). In 2011, GSA transferred the building to Stark County but GSA retained ownership of the fixed murals.
Considering their quality, it is unfortunate that they have had only limited availability to the public. These thirteen murals are in the league and period subject interest of Thomas Hart Benton’s 1931 AMERICA TODAY (removed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of AXA Equitable, 2012). The AMERICA TODAY murals feature among its ten murals one mural devoted to industry in the Midwest and that largely focuses on steelmaking.
About the Artist:
Glenn Shaw was born to Arthur B. and Grace Moore Shaw in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, on February 6, 1891, and lived in Lakewood, Ohio. He studied at the Cleveland School of Art (currently the Cleveland Institute of Art). Shaw later became an instructor at the Cleveland School of Art for 35 years, from 1922 to 1957. He served as the head of the Mural Painting Department from 1937 until his retirement in 1957. His wife, Elsa, whom he married in 1917, also taught at the Cleveland School of Art. In addition, Shaw taught commercial art at the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute in Cleveland. He was president of the Cleveland Society of Artists, the Ohio Watercolor Society and the Cleveland Fine Arts Advisory Committee.
A prominent artist, Shaw received commissions for several murals in Ohio including: the post offices in Perrysburg and Warren; the Central National Bank and the Statler Hotel in Cleveland; Lakewood High School; and the Old National Bank in Lima. He also completed murals for the Lincoln National Bank in Fort Wayne, Indiana; the Federal Reserve Bank in Pittsburgh; and the Statler Hotel in Buffalo. Shaw’s work was included in exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum in New York; and in traveling exhibits of the Cleveland Museum of Art, which currently owns five of Shaw’s works in its collection. Shaw was also a participant in the famed Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago in 1933.
Glenn Shaw moved to Sun City, Arizona in 1968. He died August 22, 1981 at the age of 90.