Several leaks in the ceiling of the Westhampton Beach Post Office on Main Street are slowly damaging what some consider to be an important piece of American art—painter Sol Wilson’s mural titled “Outdoor Sports.”
According to Isabelle Hyman, a retired art history professor at New York University in New York City, the approximate 3-foot-by-7-foot mural that depicts sports that are popular in Westhampton Beach—such as golf, hunting and tennis—has been slowly deteriorating for at least the past year due to leaks in the building’s roof. The mural, completed in 1942, is located near the ceiling on the eastern wall of the post office.
Tom Gaynor, a spokesman for the New York Metro area branch of the U.S. Postal Service, said the post office is addressing the situation by repairing the building’s roof. He noted that the repairs should be completed within the next 30 days, though he did not know how much the work would cost to complete.
“The Postal Service is committed to the mural and will do anything necessary to protect the mural,” Mr. Gaynor said.
“Outdoor Sports” was funded by the Works Progress Administration, a federal program that provided jobs to out-of-work people, including artists, during the Great Depression, according to Ms. Hyman, a part-time Westhampton Beach resident since 1970. One of the best known projects funded by the Work Progress Administration (WPA), which received its money from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was the Hoover Dam.
Mr. Wilson’s painting is one of many featured in post offices across Long Island. Ms. Hyman noted that the majority of the local WPA-funded murals can be found adorning the walls of Nassau County post offices.
Ms. Hyman explained that while Mr. Wilson might not be a household name, he did hold his own on the American art scene. Originally from Vilnius, Lithuania, Mr. Wilson lived in New York City and taught at prestigious art schools there, such as the American Artists School and the Art Students League.
“He has paintings recorded as being in the collections of significant museums,” Ms. Hyman said. “He had a real life as an artist; He was not an amateur.”
Ms. Hyman said she first noticed a small fissure in the upper left-hand corner of the mural more than a year ago, noting that, since then, the fissure has extended farther into the painting, compromising its quality.
“I’m hoping that, somehow, whoever is responsible for the condition of the post office will see to it that the leak is repaired and that whatever damage that is just at the top left hand of the painting is repaired as well,” Ms. Hyman said.
Mr. Gaynor explained that the repairs Ms. Hyman is advocating is part of the post office’s “long-term strategy” for the mural, which includes its full restoration.