Model Citizens: Mural Painting, Pageantry, and the Art of Civic Life in Progressive America


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art & Art History


This dissertation charts the rise of a civic art movement in America and the expanding roles of mural painting and pageantry in a Progressive-Era campaign to educate citizens through visual experiences. It investigates how civic artists helped constitute a Progressivism that secured a central role for the arts in period agendas of citizen-making. Believing firmly that pictures could teach as well as model character, artists stitched monumental pictures into debates on Americanization, immigration, suffrage, and educational reform. Through classically-inspired forms—allegories of Justice and Enlightenment alongside historical heroes like Paul Revere and Abraham Lincoln—muralists and pageant-masters engaged in the concerns of modern American life. This project reframes American Renaissance art within a Progressive-Era vision of citizenship formation, arguing for an understanding of early-twentieth-century murals and pageants that considers the reach of civic art into everyday life, including school curricula, art reproductions, photographic surveys, theatrical rehearsals, and the press.