Art Conservation at City Hall Gloucester MA

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Catherine Ryan writes-

Hi Joey

SAVING ART CULTURE HISTORY

Besides the Public Art Challenge that is happening as we speak, the Gloucester Committee for the Arts (CFTA) has other exciting news in January 2013!

Part of the work of the Committee for the Arts (CftA) includes mapping the way for appropriate and comprehensive ongoing preservation plans for the City’s art holdings. The CftA is committed to the preservation of Gloucester ’s irreplaceable cultural legacy for future generations.

Art conservation involves the cleaning, preserving, and occasionally the repairing of works of art. Art conservator, Peter Williams, will be setting up scaffolding in City Hall to commence cleaning on some of our stellar WPA murals by Charles Allan Winter (1869-1942). Williams, who has worked with museums and galleries for over 40 years and began his career as conservator with the MFA, was chosen to perform the restoration and preservation work and to complete the work in Phases as funding allows. The restoration work will be a great chance for everybody to see a very cool crossover of science and arts up close, all the while eyeing some of the very best New Deal art in the country. If you’re visiting City Hall, look up, look around! We know art can be a touchstone for so many learning disciplines. Take this chance to get a behind the scenes look at the preservation of our beloved murals. It’s a real joy to be able to look at art like these special murals, learn more about them and now, too, this opportunity to share awareness about the science of conservation.

Before any restoration work could begin, the CftA for several years spearheaded a fundraising effort and applied for grants for the painstaking process of cleaning and restoring these giant murals. Among the contributors were individuals and foundations/grants, including seARTS/Massachusetts Cultural Council, the City of Gloucester CPA funding, and the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation. Perhaps some readers may have purchased postcards at City Hall on Middle Street walk or coasters at another event all of which have contributed to this fund. With over $28,000 raised, the CftA now has the support necessary to begin Phase I for the first few murals, and will continue to raise more funds to finish the projects. We are so fortunate for these contributions. Thank you!

Here are details from two murals. This series by Charles Allan Winter wraps around the doors and architecture surrounding the lobby just outside the Mayor’s office. City Council in Session fills the space above the collector’s windows (approximately 7 feet high by eleven feet wide). City Government covers the opposite wall. Tucked in and around the arch-topped lunettes, the two-part mural, Civic Virtues, spreads across the two other opposing walls. This Winter series focuses on government themes as befitting their location, and the test of time. They offer special glimpses of our community in the 1930s as they include many portraits from life, great detail, artistry and ideas. Note the boys (youth) in the “planning” section of Civic Virtues clasping pieces from a model of the Gloucester High School .

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ABOUT THE GLOUCESTER COMMITTEE FOR THE ARTS

Made up of citizen volunteers appointed by the Mayor and City Council, The Committee for the Arts was established by City ordinance in 2000 to promote and celebrate Gloucester ’s cultural heritage.  The Committee recently has worked to preserve and increase awareness of Gloucester ’s WPA murals and other City-owned art. Additionally, the Committee develops and promotes educational programs and establishes awards and honors to recognize local artists. It implements a city-wide public art policy.

10 comments

  • I admire your knowledge of art conservation and the importance of saving our important artwork. Good for all of us that people like you are stepping up to preserve Gloucester’s history.

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  • These murals are an incredable art/documentry that once graced the walls of our local schools as well as City Hall. I don’t think the schools after being turned into offices kept them (Eastern Ave. school I can still picture in my mind, stickball bat and all) and are a heartwarmnig link between us and our history, even going so far as to document the names of those used in the picture at City Hall at least. I think the remaining ones should be preserved and included on the walking tour that is being set up. Not enough people are even aware of them as it is and I doubt if anything like them can be created again. Those are just my thoughts on the issue. I hope they are shared by others and generations to come.

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    • Hilary, you are so right–there are many works that were created for the schools and elsewhere in town that have been installed at City Hall.

      Stay tuned! The Committee for the Arts will be posting prior efforts by so many and making it more readily accessible. There have been wonderful authors/historians/photographers/city staff/volunteers/media outlets/the City Archive/Sawyer/Cape Ann Museum–going back decades– all who have played a part in the ongoing care of this art. We are so lucky to have the art here in Gloucester and the people who care!

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  • Thank you for sharing Cynthia and thanks to Joey for posting. I look forward to reading more updates about the city hall conservation project!

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  • Just a suggestion. Post the name and address to which contributions need to be sent. Is it deductible?

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  • CALLING OUT TO THE COMMUNITY: There is little visual record of interior photographs of the schools from the 1930s, 1940s when this art was created. By any chance if you have some photographs in the lobbies, or halls it would be fantastic to see. Please share them here or bring them by the City Hall for the Committee for the Arts, c/o the Mayor’s office while you have a look around. The Committee for the Arts will make sure they are available for research.

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  • Calling out to photographers
    Please send in photos if you have taken them of City Hall in relation to Central Grammar, just across the street.

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  • It is marvelous to see that the community is moving forward to preserve its best. The conservation efforts on behalf of City Hall are great! As a visitor to Gloucester and strange as it may seem, a visit is never complete without a walk-through of City Hall. That structure, whether or not is viewed as the heart of the community, is wonderful. It just feels good as a visitor to be inside–the art is vivid and lovely, the view from the top floor is terrific in any season and the people are friendly.

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