Michael Hachey Mural
A Wall for Quock Walker
Artist Michael Hachey has created a dramatic new mural for the Harold Donohue Federal Building and Courthouse in Worcester, Massachusetts. Entitled A Wall for Quock Walker, it illustrates a series of events in Worcester history that embody the ideal of law as protector of individual liberty and the role of the courts as a forum for obtaining social justice.
The historical drama illustrated began with the purchase of the infant Quock Walker by James Caldwell of Barre, Massachusetts in 1754. Caldwell was struck and killed by lightning in 1763, and Walker became the property of Caldwell's widow, Isabell. In 1770, she married Nathaniel Jennison, also of Barre. When Isabell died in 1773, Jennison assumed ownership of Walker.
Quock Walker asserted that he had been promised his freedom at age 25 by both James and Isabell, but Jennison refused to acknowledge the understanding. In April of 1781, Walker fled Jennison's farm and took up residence and employment as a free man with Seth and John Caldwell, brothers of James. Shortly after this move, Jennison and two other men abducted Walker and brought him back to Jennison's farm, severely beating him in the process. Within hours of the abduction, Walker escaped with the aid of the Caldwells. Thereafter, a series of trials and appeals were heard by the state courts in Worcester, culminating in a decision by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts sitting in Worcester that slavery was repugnant to the Commonwealth's constitution and to "natural law." This decision occurred more than eighty years before and presaged the abolition of slavery throughout the United States by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The mural's panels depict scenes and imagery symbolic of the clashing culture, characters and principles in the story. At center is a large landscape of late eighteenth-century farmland -- an intensely cultivated, well ordered environment of crops and stone walls. Left of the upper portion of the center panel is a standing figure visible only by way of his leggings and cuffs. This represents Walker himself -- a man of courage and tenacity, but a person about whom little is known beyond the facts of the case. To the left of Walker and above the doors is an ominous landscape of stump fences and lightning. This represents the untimely death in 1763 of James Caldwell, Walker's original master. In silhouette within this panel is Levi Lincoln, Walker's fiery defense attorney, who later served as United States Attorney General under President Thomas Jefferson.
To the right of tile central panel is an image of birch logs bundled around a woodcutter's ax. This is a decidedly New England version of the ancient Roman fasces, symbol of the authority of law. Above the right doors is the Worcester courthouse in which the trials took place. Silhouetted in profile in this panel is then Massachusetts Chief Justice William Cushing, the author of the 1783 decision effectively abolishing slavery in Massachusetts, who later became one of the first panel of Justices appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by President George Washington.
Running around and through the mural are borders of flat black and white symbols from 18th-century New England and West Africa. Among these are Yankee gravestone carvings, masks, a spear, a slave ship and a shield. These and other symbols put in counterpoint the contrasting cultural values that collided in and around the institution of slavery in Massachusetts.
Hachey used materials and techniques that best carry on the aesthetic of his large-scale drawings. To that end the mural combines art chalks, acrylic mediums and acrylic paints on archival board. The mixed media work retains the complex energetic marks and modeling of drawing with the permanence and scale of mural painting. Flat, silhouetted images are painted in hard-edge acrylic. The traditionally representational style, the severe black and white modeling and contrasts, and the calculated proportions of the panels were created in response to the rich, colorful Art Deco style of the Donohue Federal Building and Courthouse.
About the ArtistA native of Worcester, Michael Hachey was born in 1947 and grew up in Worcester County. He studied art at the Massachusetts College of Art, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree. During one summer, he participated in Harvard University's Projects in Environmental Art. Since college, Hachey has pursued both artistic and teaching careers which have included professorships at Clark University, Worcester State College and the school of the Worcester Art Museum. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Worcester State College in Worcester, Massachusetts and lectures frequently throughout the region.
Michael Hachey's solo exhibitions include the Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA; The Cultural Assembly Gallery, Worcester, MA; The DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA; University Gallery, Clark University, Worcester, MA; Campus Center Gallery, Fitchburg State College, Fitchburg, MA; Worcester Center for Crafts, Worcester, MA; The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA; Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA and Assumption College, Worcester, MA. In 1994, Hachey completed a site specific installation at the Hewlett Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Hachey's artwork is found in the collections of the Worcester Art Museum and the City of Cambridge in addition to private collections. A repeated recipient of Massachusetts Lottery grants and Massachusetts Artist Foundation Fellowships, Hachey received a National Endowment for the Arts/New England Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in 1994. Among his honors are several Ford Foundation Faculty Enrichment Grants, which gave Hachey travel and research opportunities in urban art and architecture. Another of Hachey's Worcester area commissions is envisioned for the Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts.
GSA's Art-in-Architecture ProgramArt in Federal Buildings has been an American tradition since 1855 when Congress commissioned frescoes to be painted in committee rooms of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Today the General Services Administration proudly continues this heritage with the acquisition of fine art for Federal buildings through the Art-in-Architecture Program.
Public art which graces Federal buildings today reflects our cherished and strongly held belief in the worth of the individual and the value of creative expression. American art portrays the spirit of the nation; it reflects the full range of our experiences and passions; the freedom that we experience in our art is the freedom that we live.
Commissioning works of art is a public process whereby GSA sets aside .5% of the estimated construction cost for an Art-in-Architecture Project. GSA then invites five community representatives, five art professionals and the project architect to collaborate on project development. By reviewing artists' portfolios, 3-5 artists are recommended to GSA, who selects and enters into a contract with an artist. The artist prepares a proposal, which is reviewed by the community participants and their final recommendations are given to GSA. Following acceptance of the proposal by GSA, the artist commences with the commission.
Over 250 art projects nationwide have been installed and this mural joins the others as those which have been selected through the public process. A Wall for Quock Walker is a significant public art addition for the Harold Donohue Federal Building and Courthouse, the city of Worcester, and the General Services Administration's Art-in-Architecture National Collection.
GSA maintains a National Artist Slide Registry of artists who have expressed interest in commissions for Federal artwork. Artists who wish to be placed in the registry should contact: