New Deal/WPA Art in San Jose, California

Herbert Hoover Junior High School, 1635 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA
Stained Glass window (WPA) by Edgar Dorsey Taylor

Herbert Hoover Junior High School opened in 1931. WPA art projects required that part of the cost be shared by sponsors. The only stained glass window in Hoover Jr. High School was sponsored by a graduating class as a gift to the school and funded by the Federal Art Project, Oakland, CA.

Many thanks to Ed Hodges, retired teacher from Hoover Jr. High, who contributed these photographs.

Edgar Dorsey Taylor

Robert Spray in 1936

Norval L. Gill in 1936

Glen Wessels in 1936

Mary (Dill) Henry, Robert E. Spray and Norval L. Gill were among the half-dozen or so artists and crafts people who produced this stained glass window in 1937-38 at the Federal Art Project in Oakland, a division of the Federal Art Project for Northern California headquartered in San Francisco.

In addition to the stained glass, they did murals, mosaics, sculpture, tapestry weaving and easel painting. Edgar Dorsey Taylor, designer of the stained glass window, also created other pieces these artists worked on.

The Oakland Project was supervised by Clifford Pyle. Glen Wessels, professor at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, was an active advisor to the Northern California Federal Art Project. Recent graduates of California College of Arts and Crafts and the Art Department of University of California, Berkeley, were recruited by Wessels to join the project through an application process with the local unemployment office.

"The stained glass window was fabricated in the traditional way, the various pieces of colored glass cut and shaped to match the full size cartoon of the design, allowing for the space used by the lead channeling which would join the pieces into a whole window.

The individual pieces of colored glass were stained using an early 14 century technique of coating the entire surface of the glass with a black opaque vitreous enamel "paint" which, when dry, was scratched or rubbed away to reveal the color of the transparent or translucent glass, modeling and delineating the design.

The glass pieces were then kiln fired to fuse the enamel to the glass and then assembled with the lead and a framework of iron as may be structurally required by the design.

by Norval L. Gill, September 2004

Many thanks to Mary Gill Smith, daughter of Norval L. Gill, who contributed these photographs and the article written by her father.

Article about the Hoover Middle School mural by Edgar Dorsey Taylor:

"Stained glass offers a window on WPA" by Mary Gottschalk, The Rose Garden Resident, September 16, 2004
- pdf file (799kb)

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