Frank Cassara, one of the most important American artists of the Work Progress Administration-Federal Arts Project and Professor Emeritus in the Stamps School of Art & Design, celebrates his 100th birthday today, March 17, 2013.

Professor Cassara started teaching in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design in 1947 and retired from active teaching service in 1983 having a significant and lasting impact on generations of students and the University of Michigan community.

Born in Partinico, Sicily in 1913, Frank Cassara moved from Italy to Detroit in the early 1930s where he saw the murals of Diego Rivera at DIADuring that time, Cassara focused on social issues, including job strikes, unemployed workers, and farmers. Like many artists of his generation, Cassara addressed the social tensions that challenged the city of Detroit and the nation during the Great Depression.

Cassara studied under Walter Speck and Reginald Bennett at the Detroit School of Art from 1933-36, as well as fresco painting with Jean Paul Slusser (Slusser Gallery was named after him). In 1938, Cassara was appointed supervisor of Michigan’s easel painting section of the WPA/FAP (Work Progress Administration-Federal Arts Project). Cassara produced many important mural paintings for this program including the works at the Thompson School in Highland Park, the Water Conditioning Plant in Lansing, a post office mural in east Detroit, as well as in Sandusky, Ohio. In 1958, Cassara studied printmaking at Stanley W. Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris. From the late 1950’s on, Cassara focused on paper making. Cassara’s work is in many Michigan museum collections, as well as in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Stedelijik Museum, Amsterdam, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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