The Chicago Public Schools Mural Restoration Project

The Chicago Public Schools mural preservation effort began in 1994, with the perseverance of one teacher, Flora Doody, who was concerned about the condition of the murals in the school. When The Chicago Conservation Center staff first went to examine the murals, they expected to find one or two. Instead they found 66 murals, in what is considered to be one of the nation’s largest public building mural collections.

(Above Left) Teaching of the Arts, Mitchell Siporin, 1938 (WPA), Lane Tech Auditorium
(Above Right):  Epochs in the History of Man, Edgar Britton, 1936-7 (WPA), Lane Tech Cafeteria

Cleaning detail > the States: Colorado, Miklos Gaspar, 1933 (Columbian Exposition), Lane Tech First-Floor Hallways


As research in to the Chicago Public School mural collection progressed, murals were found that were not only dirty but that suffered from a wide variety of damage, including:  graffiti (#1), vandalism (attempts to tear the canvas from the wall) #2, structural damage  (#3) and water damage (#4).

Above: Overpainting removal

The Chicago Conservation Center staff on-site at Hugh Manley High School Auditorium removing overpaint from Gustaf Dahlstrom’s Fall (1936, WPA)

Before and After

(Above) The original painted image on the fire curtain at Lane Tech (right) had been covered with an abstract work painted on nine canvas panels.

(Above) This overpainted work from Edward Tilden Technical High School had been rescued from the dumpster and stored by a forward-thinking school Engineer.

This 1910 (Progressive Era) work by Datus E. Myers, Pioneers and Indians, had extensive structural and visual damage that was repaired in The Chicago Conservation Center laboratory.

A complete record of The Chicago Conservation Center’s mural restoration effort is documented in the book,  ART FOR THE PEOPLE.