What's the story behind the murals inside the Union Passenger Terminal? I came across them while picking up a friend there and found them both unusual and beautiful.
The murals in the Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue have been called some of the city's most important treasures of public art, though most people who visit that building probably have no idea of their historical value.
The murals are the work of artist Conrad Albrizio, an internationally known fresco painter who also was LSU's first professor of painting. According to a profile by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Albrizio was born in New York in 1894. He studied architecture at the Beaux Arts Institute in New York and first came to New Orleans in the 1920s. He studied art here and in Europe, where he learned the fresco technique of painting on wet plaster.
The hotel has been the setting for several movies, most notably 1978's "Pretty Baby," starring Susan Sarandon and a young Brooke Shields.
Albrizio worked extensively in Louisiana during the 1930s, painting several fresco panels in the State Capitol building in Baton Rouge and the Capitol Annex, among other public art projects funded by the Works Progress Administration.
He was commissioned to create the Union Passenger Terminal murals in 1951 and took three years to complete them. The project, which at the time was one of the largest frescoes in the country, consists of four panels: "Age of Exploration," "Age of Colonization," "Age of Struggle" and "Modern Age."
Passengers boarding the train known as the City of New Orleans in the Union Passenger Terminal have seen Conrad Albrizio's mural.
"With the aid of a conservative symbolism, Albrizio carries his subject matter from Spain's conquest of Mexico all the way to the harnessing of atomic energy," the Times-Picayune reported in April 1954. Some of the scenes depicted in the murals are intense, including the crucifixion of a Native American, a Ku Klux Klansman on horseback and scenes involving violence and nudity.
Albrizio died in Baton Rouge in 1973. Local art lovers raised funds to restore his Union Passenger Terminal murals in 2006.