Immigrants’ experience highlighted in Museum of Arts and Sciences’ exhibition

Telegraph correspondentJanuary 24, 2014 

A replica of a 1938 mural that once was installed in the immigrants dining hall on Ellis Island is now installed in the Museum of Arts and Sciences, at least until March 23.

“This mural that we are exhibiting is a series of 19 panels that measure 5-feet-tall by 90-feet-long. It’s about half the size of the original mural that was painted in the Aliens’ Dining Hall at Ellis Island,” said Melanie Byas, director of marketing and communications for the Museum of Arts and Sciences. “It was mainly painted to celebrate immigrants that came through Ellis Island. Many of them were Chinese, Italian, Greek and German. It is paintings of these people building the country. Most of the original mural was destroyed when the government closed Ellis Island and the building was declared excess federal property in 1954.”

Byas called the story of the original mural “fascinating.”

“The original Ellis Island mural, entitled ‘The Role of the Immigrant in the Industrial Development in America,’ was commissioned by the New Deal Federal Art Project, part of (President) Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Painted by muralist Edward Laning from 1935-1938, the eight-panel mural was displayed in the dining hall and chronicled the founding and building of America by pioneers from different countries,” she said.

“In 2003, Andrew Sabori, a muralist who was researching his ancestry, found himself at Ellis Island. He had seen photographs of the original mural and some of the original artists and he wanted to share this work of art with Americans to teach them about the contributions that immigrants made. With the help of high school and college art students, he was able to create a reproduction.”

Before arriving in Macon, the mural has been displayed in Atlanta, Nevada and Utah. But Byas said the museum has something special planned for its stay in Macon.

“To celebrate while the mural is on display, the museum will host an official naturalization ceremony for immigrants in the area who have completed the requirements to become U.S. citizens. This momentous event -- a significant occasion for the new American citizens -- is part of the museum’s strategic goal to serve a broader spectrum of residents in the region.”

“We were thrilled to learn that the museum was approved as a site with a tentative date in February,” said Susan Welsh, the museum’s executive director. “Our staff will work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host what could possibly be the first-ever large naturalization ceremony to be held in Macon. Approximately 100 new citizens will participate in the ceremony and many of them will have several family members in attendance. Organizing the ceremony while the mural is in the region will be very meaningful for all involved.”

“Lost Mural of Ellis Island”

When: On display through March 23

Where: Museum of Arts and Sciences, 4182 Forsyth Road

Cost: Free with museum admission of $5-$10

Information: 478-477-3232;

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