Vertis Hayes (1911–2000) was born in Atlanta and moved to live with his aunt and uncle in New York City in the early 1930s to study art and escape the bigoted atmosphere of the South. He studied with muralist Jean Charlot from 1934 to 1935. By the time he became a master artist on the Harlem Hospital Center murals at the age of 25, he had already worked for the WPA as an assistant on the lobby of a high-school building that is now part of the Parsons School of Design. He was one of the only members of the hospital team who had experience as a muralist rather than as an easel painter.
After completing his Harlem Hospital Center murals, Hayes headed the Federal Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1938 to 1939, and chaired the art department at LeMoyne College, an historically black school in Memphis, from 1938 to 1949. He also founded the Hayes Academy of Art in 1947, directing it until 1952. He moved to Los Angeles in 1951, and taught at California State College, Immaculate Heart College from 1971 to 1974. Hayes's work has been exhibited at Fisk University, Dillard University, Atlanta University, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Chicago Public Library. He was a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1969, and the Art Institute of Boston awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1971.