You are here

The story behind Ada's post office mural goes back 78 years

By Reema Bazzy


What do Ada, Ohio, and abstract expressionism have in common?

In 1935, the U.S. Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts sponsored an artist juried contest to help find artists for federal jobs. The Section of Fine Arts was all a part of the Work Progress Administration, better known as the WPA.

Artist Albert Kotin won that contest and this led to Kotin painting murals for two federal buildings.  One of those buildings was in Arlington, New Jersey, and one was right here in Ada. The year was 1939 and Albert Kotin was 32 years old.

The mural is oil on canvas and is to your left and above as you enter the Ada Post Office. 

Referred to as 'A Country Barn Dance', it depicts a community of people who have come together to enjoy themselves. The musicians playing for their neighbors, the men and women dancing and the children playing. 

Much as Kotin imagined it might have been in the early days of Ada, Ohio. He is quoted regarding the mural, "The characters in the mural are the type of people who settled in that region of Ohio in the [late 1800's]. People had settled down to peaceful pursuits…their community recreation is symbolized by the barn dance."

Kotin even believed that a place that once held barn dances can also hold universities and that it was all a part of a greater good. Kotin commented "As Ada grew a college was founded there and I like to think there is a definite connection between the country dance and the more serious aspects of Ada's cultural life." 

He added, "To my mind, the first evidence of a culture following the establishment of homes and farms in the wilderness is the settler's interest in community activities…the town people sponsor town meetings, establish schools and finally a college. All of these things are the fruits of peace and it's attendant prosperity."  

Albert Kotin studied art in various schools throughout the world, including several years in Paris.  He served during WWII.  He's participated in the seminal and famous "Ninth Street Show" in 1951 that helped launch the abstract-expressionist movement. 

In the years following that, his work was exhibited in numerous galleries and museums and his colleagues and friends included Willem and Elaine deKooning, Jackson Pollack, Phillip Guston and Arshile Gorky.

Albert Kotin died in 1980.  He had a wide ranging and successful career and Ada, Ohio in 1939 was a part of it.

The Icon thanks Jon Umphress for the information provided in this story.