The Night Before Christmas: Public Works of Art With Local Ties
Posted on December 10, 2018
by Gayle H
P.W.A. Project by Scott High School Student
The vault of the Blade Rare Book Room houses a variety of historical objects …
Among the artifacts representing our national, regional, and in this case even our institutional history, are a set of ten renderings of Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “The Night Before Christmas.” They were commissioned in 1934 by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a program initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help stimulate the economy during the depression. Colored photographs of these works, along with the works of 24 additional area artists that included zoo murals, model ships, portraits, and sculptures, were exhibited in Washington, D. C., as part of a national exhibit of work done under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The placards feature the art and calligraphy of Helmut F. Thoms, at the time a junior at Scott High School. After the set became part of the Library’s collection, traditionally, they were used by librarians to narrate the poem for family holiday events. After spending a number of years at the West Toledo Branch Library, they were reportedly rediscovered during the 2001 renovation of the Main Library.
Now the artwork is part of the permanent collection in the Blade Rare Book Room in the Local History and Genealogy department at Main Library, which is still available for research purposes by appointment during renovations.
The Night Before Christmas: Art & Calligraphy by Helmut F. Thoms; text by Clement C. Moore
Each of the 14″ x 20″ artist’s boards were created with a variety of media including pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink. Thoms also made a portfolio to contain the artwork, using the cover as shown above.