When architect John Gaw Meem began planning the Fine Arts Center in the early 1930s, he consciously included spaces for public art in both the interior and exterior of the building.
Boardman Robinson was commissioned to paint the five murals over the main entrance. Robinson was a nationally known illustrator, muralist and art teacher at the Broadmoor Art Academy, who became the first FAC art school director in 1936 and stayed until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in June, 1947.
Painted in classic “true fresco” technique, the panels represent sculpture, theatre, dance, music and painting – a tribute to the first institution west of the Mississippi to combine so many artistic pursuits under one roof.
Robinson’s murals complemented the new building.
“They are busy young people, apparently having a rather good time at their work,” according to a 1936 Architectural Forum article. “It is something of this spirit that characterizes the entire building, a spirit that is the very essence of the new architecture.”
Over the years the original frescoes became faded, so in 1986, in celebration of the Fine Arts Center’s 50th Anniversary, the murals were completely repainted by Eric Bransby, a former student of Robinson, and a giant in the world of murals in his own right.
“Bransby masterfully enhanced Robinson’s original forms with his own details,” says current FAC Curator Blake Milteer.
“An oft-quoted Robinson statement that ‘we unwind as we are wound’ came to mind, as I was reminded that I was ‘wound’ by Benton, Charlot and Albers, as well as by Robinson,” wrote Bransby. “In the absence of any color reference, the color palette was strictly my own, as was the need to completely re-draw the figures from life.”
During the 2007 renovation, great care was taken to protect and preserve these original artworks, which are an important part of the Fine Arts Center’s legacy.