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In 1934 the U.S. Treasury Department, Section of Painting and Sculpture in Washington, D.C., appointed a committee to conduct competition for the painting of murals in new federal buildings. Funding for art or decoration was provided at one percent of the building's cost if construction came in under budget.
A local committee of Frederick Ezekiel BISSELL, Dr. John K. Hancock, Casimir Ignatius KRAJEWSKI, and Kate Keith VAN DUZEE received submissions from local artists and sent their choices to the committee in Washington for its approval.William J. PETERSEN.
Bertrand Adams of Webster City painted "Early Settlers of Dubuque." Among the scenes included in the work are the grave of Julien DUBUQUE, SHOT TOWER, LEAD mine, and a family waiting to cross the MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
Each artist received $956 for his mural. Both murals measured 6 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft. 3 in. and are painted with oil on canvas.
More controversial has been the depiction of nineteenth century Dubuque in the auditorium of Dubuque Senior High School. Painted in the late 1930s by Cyril FERRING, the mural was condemned in the 1970s because of its portrayal of women as submissive, AFRICAN AMERICANS as slaves, white males as dominating and Native Americans as social and cultural outcasts.
In 1991 a new mural was unveiled in the auditorium with images in keeping with the multicultural, non-sexist policy of the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. Created by artist Carl Homstad of Decorah, Iowa, the mural shows one scene of a construction site with workers of both sexes and including an Asian, Hispanic and Native American. The second scene depicts an office with an African American professional male speaking with a white professional woman in a wheelchair. The artist included himself in the mural as the only white male pouring coffee into a mug labeled "Save the Earth." The mural was paid with donations collected by students from residents and the Dubuque chapter of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.).