New Deal Mural Reproductions for the U.S District Court

Courtroom Murals: New Deal Era Public Art From Coit Tower


Program Overview

Reproductions of Coit Tower’s famous murals now grace the courtrooms of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Hallway display cases feature miniature reproductions, along with the story behind each mural, a biography of the artist who created the original, and information about the New Deal Public Art programs. The Coit Tower murals were the first major artworks commissioned under the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a component of the New Deal initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 as a way for the government to ease social problems caused by the Great Depression. The intent was to provide economic relief, leading to recovery and reform.

Adaptation to San Francisco Courtrooms

The Coit Tower murals are traditional frescoes and are primarily panoramic in style. The courtroom design called for eight-foot tall vertical images, which required the originals to be carefully cropped to this format while maintaining compositional integrity. They were produced using high-resolution photography, and printed on a bamboo-fiber paper which provided the optimal textural nuance for emulating the finish of the fresco method. The prints are framed in sustainable US-grown walnut moulding. Specialized focusing theatrical LED lighting brings the murals to life, as if they are windows to the
outside world. 

Inspiration for the Project

The inspiration for the San Francisco courtroom art program was drawn from the new courthouse in McKinleyville, opened in 2015. Featured there are
five original 1936 Thomas Laman murals, which were restored and relocated from the old Eureka courthouse. These murals from the New Deal period were considered to be an ideal complement for this courtroom. As no additional original artwork of this genre and proportion was available, the concept for creating reproductions for the San Francisco courtrooms was developed.

San Jose Courthouse Project

The New Deal Art Program is currently being extended to include all courtrooms in the San Jose US District Courthouse. Each courtroom will have several framed murals reproduced from original murals that are in the Northern District of California.

Many Coit Tower murals are suitable for this program, as well as others in schools, post offices and colleges. The theme will tie into the area’s history.


Courtroom Murals: Images of New Deal Era Art from Coit Tower

Historical Society, US District Court for the Northern District of California  – Panel Presention, March 3, 2020

at the Phillip Burton Federal Building & United States Courthouse, San Francisco, California

Moderator: Hon. Charles R. Breyer (Ret.), U.S. District Judge, Northern District of California