HANOVER, NH.- The Orozco mural cycle, one of Dartmouths greatest treasures, has been designated a national historic landmark, one of 13 new landmarks announced March 11, 2013, by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
Jose Clemente Orozcos The Epic of American Civilization, created between 1932 and 1934 while Orozco was in-residence at Dartmouth, challenged traditional thinking about the development of Aztec and Anglo-American civilizations in North America. The renowned Mexican muralist conceived the muralslocated in Baker-Berry Libraryas a representation of a North American continent characterized by the duality of indigenous and European historical experiences.
It is gratifying that Dartmouths showcasing of the most significant work of Orozcos career has been recognized as a prominent destination in telling our nations rich and diverse story, said Dartmouth President Carol L. Folt. The murals provide an unparalleled opportunity for Dartmouth students studying art, and for our community, to experience one of Mexicos foremost artists of the early 20th century.
Dean of Libraries Jeffrey Horrell said. This is a wonderful opportunity for Dartmouth to be able to share the Orozco murals with the country and the world, and for Dartmouth to have this designation. Im sure it will encourage many more visitors to Dartmouth.
The murals join other important sites including the home of author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford, Conn.; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where civil rights marchers were attacked in 1965 by law enforcement officers in what became known as Bloody Sunday; Puerto Ricos Old San Juan Historic District, the largest of collection of buildings representing four centuries of Spanish culture; Honey Springs Battlefield in Muskogee and McIntosh Counties, Okla., scene of the largest battle in Indian Territory during the Civil War; and Yaddo, one of the countrys oldest artists retreats, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
From the Civil War to civil rights, to the struggles and accomplishments of women, African Americans and Latinos, these sites highlight the mosaic of our nations historic past, said the National Park Services Jarvis. We are proud to administer the National Historic Landmarks Program to educate and inspire Americans through their countrys rich and complex history.
The murals are housed in the newly-named Orozco Room in the librarys ground-level reserve reading room. The mural space underwent major renovations last summer and fall, reopening in October after new lighting and comfortable seating were installed, with funding from the Manton Foundation. The project took place during Dartmouths yearlong arts initiativeYear of the Arts.
Orozco (1883-1949) was Dartmouths second artist-in-residence at a time of intense growth and activity in the institutions art department. Art history professors Artemas Packard and Churchill Lathrop brought the prominent Mexican artist to campus to teach the art of fresco to students. During that residency, the idea for the commission of a mural was proposed, and later supported by then-Dartmouth President Ernest Martin Hopkins.
Orozcos work is one of the finest examples of Mexican Muralism in the United States and arguably the artists greatest work, said Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum of Art. Commissioning Orozco to paint this mural in Baker Library in the early 1930s represents a daring moment in Dartmouths history and todays decision to designate The Epic of American Civilization as a national historic landmark will preserve this masterpiece of modern art for generations to come.
National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. The program, established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. Currently there are 2,540 designated national historic landmarks.
This is a big deal, no doubt about it, said National Park spokesman Mike Litterst. This is the highest distinction that a site can get from the Secretary of the Interior. There are people who make plans to go out of their way to visit national historic landmarks.
Associate Professor of Art Mary Coffey, who last fall testified before the National Park System Advisory Board in support of the Orozco landmark designation, said Orozcos work is an amazing asset for students studying fresco art or public art.
By the end of the course Coffey teaches on the murals, she says every student is utterly enamored with these murals and they become proselytizers for Orozco
and incredibly excited about public art, and incredibly excited about these murals in particular.
The other new landmarks are: the Camden (Maine) Amphitheatre and Public Library, one of the few public projects of Fletcher Steele, one of Americas premier practitioners of 20th-century landscape design; Camp Nelson Historic and Archeological District, Jessamine County, Ky., one of the nations largest Civil War recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers; Casa Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, San Juan, Puerto Rico, the residence and workspace of Ramírez, a prominent literary criticism voice in the movement that shaped Puerto Ricos 20th-century national cultural identity.
Also, the George T. Stagg Distillery, Franklin County, Ky., a rare, intact example of an operating distillery before, during, and after Prohibition; Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, N.J., which was used by a Negro League baseball team; Pear Valley, Eastville, Va., a 1740, wood-frame house that is a rare example of the distinctive form of architecture that developed in the Chesapeake Bay region; and Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Ill., which represents the visual and philosophical precepts of the turn of the century Arts and Crafts design movement.