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GSA Repairs Mural at Voice of America HQ

Damage was from 2011 earthquake

The Voice of America’s Washington headquarters has something in common with a Smithsonian museum: art. It has another thing in common as well: art restoration.

A mural, see below, is among several artworks on the walls of what was once called the Social Security Administration Building. It was painted by Ben Shahn. Titled “The Meaning of Social Security,” the mural was painted in 1942 but was damaged in an earthquake last year. It is now being restored in a General Services Administration project that costs $75,000.

A release describes the labor: “The conservation efforts include precision paint and repair work, using modern, reversible materials to stabilize cracks, repair chips, and preserve the mural …”

The painting, on two walls of the Wilbur J. Cohen Federal Building, portrays sad and happy workers and farmers in a social realism style, aiming to show the effects of the Social Security Act, passed seven years prior. According to a VOA blog, the work “vividly captures the ambitions of the New Deal programs and also serves as an example of government efforts to extend patronage to the arts in the 1930s.” It can be seen by visitors on the VOA public studio tours.

A company that had worked on the mural in a 1993 conservation effort, Olin Conservation, is doing the restoration.

There’s more about the project and the painter on the VOA site.