Public unveiling of the newly restored 1938 wood marquetry mural at Chapman Elementary School “Send Us Forth to be Builders of a Better World” by Aimee Gorham. The entrance foyer of Chapman Elementary has been graced with the work of Aimee Spencer Gorham since 1938 when the large format wood marquetry mural titled Send Us Forth to be Builders of a Better World was installed there, but almost 80 years of accumulated soiling, wear, and vandalism had obscured the exquisite and glowing figural effects of the wood grains in the mural. On Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 6-8 pm, The Chapman PTA, Neighbors West-Northwest and Heritage Conservation Group will invite the public to view the mural in its newly restored condition. Conservation of the murals was made possible by funding through the State of Oregon’s Oregon Heritage Grant, the Juan Young Trust and the Autzen Foundation. The unveiling event is sponsored by Neighbors West-Northwest and organized by the Chapman PTA.
During the unveiling event, talks will be given by art historian Bonnie Laing Malcolmson on Aimee Gorham, Heritage Conservation Group president Nina Olsson on the conservation treatment, and Dr. Suzana Radivojevic, wood scientist with the U of O Historic Preservation Program, on Gorham’s the use of wood veneer and plywood in the historic context of the wood products industry of the Pacific Northwest. There will also be a dedication of a new Auditorium sign by Gary Laroff, Columbia River Chapter of the American Marquetry Society.
Aimee Gorham is best known for her work at the Timberline Lodge, the largest and most ambitious New Deal project of the area, where two of her pieces grace the walls of that temple to rustic regionalism. Under WPA programs, Gorham produced murals for Oregon State University’s School of Forestry, numerous Portland Public schools, regional art centers in Oregon, and for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. She established a workshop of furniture makers from Timberline Lodge that executed her designs into the 1950s.
Gorham only recently has come to be is considered a significant regional artist, despite never having received adequate recognition. This may have been due to now outdated concepts in art criticism during the mid and late 20th century, that considered her technical medium, wood marquetry, a decorative or “minor art”. Not to be overlooked is her identity as a female artist, which also may have contributed to her lack of critical fortune due to gender bias.
Learn more about this significant piece of work Come at the educational community event on Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 6-8 pm at the Chapman Elementary School Auditorium. Appetizers and child friendly activities will be provided.