Flight mural by James Brooks

Flight mural by James Brooks at LaGuardia Airport

The Works Progress Administration commissioned American artist James Brooks to produce a mural on the history of flight for LaGuardia Airport. The mural became the largest of the entire program. In preparation for the Marine Air Terminal’s 1940 opening, Brooks depicted the invention of flight, including mythological predecessors, of flying as well as the obsession at the time with flying boats. Part of the mural depicts a Boeing B-314 departing, with many waving their goodbyes. In the 1950s, it was misinterpreted as Communist propaganda and was painted over, though it was later restored about three decades later.

Geoffrey Arend, an aviation historian and LaGuardia employee, led efforts to save the mural and bring Brooks back to restore it. The mural was fully restored in 1980, the same year that the terminal was given landmark status. The restoration included all the original references to figures like Icarus and Daedalus, Leonardo DaVinci, and the Wright brothers. There are also depictions of flight as an important privilege for the common man, not just societal elites and the military, which may have been the reason for the mural’s cover-up.