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Art Deco in Chicago Schools        

Art Deco Scene Continues to Thrive in Chicago Schools

December 14, 2017

Lane Technical College Prep High School has become home for a large collection of art work, specifically art deco related, since the early 1900’s. Lane Tech is the is the recipient of several murals done for Chicago’s Second World’s Fair, the Century of Progress. Between 1934 and the early 1940s, Lane Tech received murals, frescos, and sculptures that were created or acquired with funding from the Federal Art Project (FAP) which was created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).


The original Lane Tech location on Sedgwick and Division. Image source: Archival Image Collections, Ryerson and Burnham Librariers, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Deco definition: The predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colors, and used most notably in household objects and in architecture. Frequently, the theme of the Four Elements (nature) is used.


Famous art deco piece by Henry Sternberg, Chicago: Epoch of a Great City, Lakeview Post – 1937.

Lane Tech History:
Originally opened in 1908 in a building on the cordner of Sedwick and Division, the school moved to its permanent home twenty years later inm 1934. The current location, 2501 West Addison Street, welcomed Works Progress Administratoin (WAP) artists. The school already had an impressive collection from Chicago Public School Art Society that had been building since its inception. The WAP and Federal Art Project (FAP) allowed artists to flourish in Chicago exchanging stipends and supplies for an agreed amount of completed pieces.


Part of Ott’s wood carving panel located in the LT library, Control of the Elements. Image Source Bernacki and Associates.

Notably, Lane Tech was gifted (through a student run fundraiser) artist Peterpaul Ott’s Control of the Elements in 1936 where it still is located today in the library. The wooden panels are 6 feet wide and 15 feet high. “The panels produce a dynamic interplay between nature and modern forms of transportation, communications, and industrial production… Greco-Roman mythical figures are rendered, suggesting the universal quest for mastery over the elements of the natural world” (CADS Recap, December 2017). Ott’s wooden piece is the start of the unique take on art deco as it focuses more on modern imagery and urbanism.

For more on the art deco scene in Chicago please read the full article here with Lane Tech story starting on page 12: CADS_F17_Final_lowres

Banner image: Students listen to author T.M. Goeglein as he presents in front of Ott’s wood panel. Image courtesy of T.M. Goeglein and Julia Thiel.

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