WOLCOTT GRAND LAKE ASHLAND DAMEN
The Mural Department conservators are trained in the treatment of oil, fresco, acrylic, and other media. The Center is equipped to handle murals in various sizes that are created on plaster, canvas, metal, wood, and paper. Often up on scaffolding, working a square inch at a time, this department meets the demand of preserving large-scale public art. 
 

Pioneers and Indians, Datus E. Myers, 1920, oil on canvas, at Linné Elementary School with students.

Outstanding American Women, Edward Millman, 1938-1940, fresco, Lucy Flower Career Academy High School.

Construction Site, Gordon Stevenson, 1909, oil on canvas, Lane Technical High School.

 

Heather Becker's Art for the People, published by Chronicle Books in 2004.

Heather Becker's Art for the People, published by Chronicle Books in 2004.

The Mural Department conservators are trained in the treatment of oil, fresco, acrylic, and other media. Founded in 1996, the Mural Department’s portfolio now includes treatment of over 600 Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Progressive Era murals across the United States. 

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) constitutes the largest remaining mural collection in the country. These murals were painted between 1904 and 1943. The Center has fostered a relationship with CPS and has assisted with the preservation of 440 murals across the city. In 2002, The Conservation Center co-curated an exhibition with the Art Institute of Chicago entitled To Inspire and Instruct: Murals from the Chicago Public Schools to re-introduce the restored murals to the public. 

Heather Becker, The Conservation Center's CEO, is widely considered to be an expert in the restoration of early-20th-century murals in Chicago. She authored a book on Chicago murals and art preservation entitled Art for the People (Chronicle Books) in 2004. 

Click here to read all press related to the CPS mural preservation project.


"Chicago has a very rich cultural legacy recorded in the Chicago Public School murals. Posterity owes a debt to the efforts being made to preserve them. The Mural Preservation project creates a way to maintain continuity and integrity for the visual arts and history of Chicago."                    - Ed Paschke

"The New Deal wasn't perfect; it was dynamic. The atmosphere of challenge and experiment, as well as preserving and recording, was mirrored in the arts program. Whether comfortable or not, art reflects some truths about who we are, and that's healthy for us. The New Deal for artists proved its benefits." - Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

"Even though (The New Deal) came out of a terrible thing called the Depression, I feel the time was a very great moment in American cultural history. Strangely enough, it was a glorious period in American culture...the time was very exciting. Everything converged: the Depression, the New Deal, the Arts Project, the Federal Writer's Project, the Federal Theater Project, all in one moment." - Studs Terkel

"The research, preservation, and educational efforts under way in Chicago are being recignized across the country as a model of arts education programming. As with the WPA, the glory of these efforts does not lie in the beaurocracies that have helped bring them about. Instead, the true significance of these art programs endures in the lives of teachers, students, and other audiences who contribute to and benefit from them."             - Heather Becker

The Conservation Center invites you to visit some of the murals that were conserved for the City of Chicago. There are 58 large-scale murals scattered across 11 Chicago Park District Field Houses:

stories related to mural conservation:

Lucienne From the Bloch: Conserving a Modern Mural for a Jewish Temple

 

Before

After

In honor of Pesach (Passover) earlier this month, we’re highlighting a major conservation treatment for Temple Emanuel, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Conservation Center’s team worked tirelessly on-site and in our laboratories to help restore a massive 1,000 square-foot mural that covered the entire expanse of the rear wall of the synagogue. Painted on multiple lightweight wood panels by the Swiss-born American artist Lucienne Bloch (1909–1999), this modern mural stands as a testament to a dynamic time in religious architecture that aimed to keep up with societal trends in art and construction.

SlideShow: Deinstalling and Examining Lucienne Bloch's Epic Mural

 

In 2012, significant leaking from the roof caused severe water damage of the plywood panels, causing extreme warping, staining, and delamination of the veneers from the panels. The mural itself, which was painted using water-soluble paints (something similar to gouache), started to drip down across the panels as soon as water entered the space. Devastated, Temple Emanuel contacted The Conservation Center to perform an on-site assessment to best determine how to conserve Bloch’s work. Years of constant use and handling of the doors and tracks around the mural had also caused issues beyond the water damage—fingerprints had darkened and smudged areas of the paint, to the extent that there were significant losses that needed to be addressed. There was also a thin layer of grime that needed to be removed from the panels. However, because of the nature of the paint used, most methods of cleaning would strip away the design. Eventually, six panels came back to The Center’s lab in Chicago to undergo treatment.

Cleaning The Merchandise Mart's Epic "Merchandise Around the World" Mural

 

The Merchandise Mart, towering 25 stories at its highest point and occupying four million square feet, rests along the Chicago River as the epicenter of downtown Chicago life, culture, media, and business. Finished in 1930 and massive in its construction, The Mart serves as a monument to early 20th-century merchandising and architecture. Even after more than 80 years, this Art Deco landmark continues to be a leading retailing and wholesale destination, attracting people from all over the world.


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