Taft Junior High School is listed in the National Register as the best example of the Art Deco style on a school building in Oklahoma City. Built in 1931, with a 1940 addition, Taft Junior High was designed by the firm of Layton Hicks & Forsyth, who veered from their traditional use of classical or gothic vocabulary and embraced a modern style.
The plan of the building diverged as well from the typical block & court footprint of the city schools. Dominated by a central core that house administrative and communal functions, the school’s classrooms are housed in wings that parallel the side streets.
The yellow brick of the building features numerous decorative brick patterns that are somewhat overshadowed by the liberal use of terra cotta ornamentation on all exterior walls.
Of course, the central tower is the most ornate, but notable are the eight spandrel panels depicting vocations and academic disciplines. It is the exuberant use of terra cotta and decorative brick pattern that makes the building so appealing; it is a break from traditional architecture of the day. In terms of what is now known as Art Deco, the building stands head and shoulders above its contemporaries in the Oklahoma City school system.
In The Arts spandrel panel, only the tragedy mask is portrayed.