Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Marlene Park

Committee Members

Sally Webster

Harriet Senie

Erika Doss

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


"Art to Educate" chronicles a history of public art in the New York City public schools from the beginning until the passage of the City's Percent-for-Art Law in 1982. Its purpose is twofold: to bring to light public artworks in school buildings that are typically ignored in discussions of public art and to create a historical framework for understanding this collection.

To contextualize this collection, "Art to Educate" links public art in schools to school architecture and the Board of Education's school construction programs over the last century; to a consideration of educational theory and viewpoints in art education; and to the concerns of audience, site, and patron. From this matrix several major themes emerge: public art as educator, public art as architectural enhancement, public art as commemoration, the tension between public art and abstraction, and public art and the politics of identity.

"Art to Educate" covers the period 1890 through 1976. Arranged chronologically, each chapter provides an overview of roughly a decade, illustrated by case studies. Chapter 1, the 1890s, focuses on the motives for placing art in schools with an examination of the practice of placing art reproductions in school-rooms, largely inspired by John Ruskin's writings. Chapter 2 discusses the little known Board of Education architect, Charles B. J. Snyder and early stained glass windows. Chapter 3 expands on Snyder's contributions, focusing on several major murals by second-generation American Renaissance artists. Chapter 4 considers the commemorative function of public art in schools, particularly World War I memorials. Chapter 5 covers the New Deal period, and its emphasis on murals, focusing on those that tackle the ambitious history of civilization theme. Chapter 6 shows how modernist architecture ushered in the transformation of public school art, evidenced in abstract mosaics and sculptures by Hans Hofmann, Ben Shahn, and Mary Callery. And Chapter 7 establishes the roots of multiculturalism in public school art by examining a body of work by African-American artists.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.