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Civic art display

A recently received government document,Civic Art: a Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, is on display in the government documents collection on the main floor of the James B. Duke Library.  The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is a presidentially appointed body of seven well-qualified judges of the fine arts who review the designs of proposed federal buildings within Washington, D.C. and approve the site and design of national memorials.  The commission also advises the U.S. Mint on the design of coins and medals.  This illustrated book tells the story of a century of design and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts’ role in shaping American civic art.  Organized chronologically, the book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the design of Washington’s memorials, buildings, and transportation systems.  According to the editor, Thomas Luebke, this book “provides many glimpses of the fractious, inspired, and often messy process that defines democracy in action in Washington, as revealed in the work of the commission since 1910.”  The library’s display highlights some of the more interesting decisions made by the commission, which include the design of the Lincoln Memorial and the Metro system.  Also mentioned are design decisions which received public criticism, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Proposed pyramid design for the Lincoln Memorial

One of the many designs considered for the Lincoln Memorial, this pyramid design was by prominent New York architect, John Russell Pope.

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