'Spirit of Communication'
A Depression-era sculpture by Charles Umlauf survives in a small suburban post office.
A cast stone relief in the lobby of the U.S. Post Office in Morton, Illinois, originated as a Work Progress Administration art project during the Great Depression. Commissioned in 1939 at a cost of $700, the sculpture is titled “Spirit of Communication.” It was sculpted by Charles Umlauf, a young artist from Michigan who was studying in Chicago.
The piece depicts a messenger on a winged horse, no doubt to symbolize the speed and efficiency of the postal service. When a new post office was constructed in 1976, the sculpture was salvaged and moved to the new location. The building where the piece was originally installed (also a WPA project) still stands at 120 North Main Street and serves as a Municipal Building and Village Hall.
Soon after completing the Morton piece, Umlauf began a 40-year career as an art professor at the University of Texas. His work can be found in numerous churches, public institutions, outdoor locations and museums, and at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum in Austin, Texas.
Know Before You Go
The Morton Post Office retail lobby is generally open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The sculpture can be seen through glass doors in the public lobby, which is open 24/7.
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