How Many People Watched The World Cup Final 2014 Saving and Restoring the Historic California WPA Mural, Richmond – Industrial City

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Saving and Restoring the Historic California WPA Mural, Richmond – Industrial City

You’d think that Victor Arnautoff, artistic director of the extensive murals at Coit Tower in nearby San Francisco and a protégé of Diego Rivera, would get some respect. But even an important oil on canvas (on wall) mural commission by the US Treasury Department of Fine Arts for the downtown post office in Richmond, CA painted by Arnautoff in April 1941 was unceremoniously torn from the wall.

Records show that during the remodeling of the post office lobby, a historic 6′ 6″ X 13’4″ mural of the “Industrial City of Richmond” depicting prominent people and places in Richmond … was not considered, at the time, so historically important… and Arnautoff was a prominent figure in the New Deal art projects, a national federal program!

Apparently it was languishing, undiscovered in the basement of the building for nearly half a century. Then, in 2014, Richmond Museum of History and Culture staff learned from longtime member Fran Cappelletti that a mural had once been part of the post office lobby. Executive Director, Melinda McCrary took the lead in the search for this important large painting that was “lost.” Her search led her to the janitor for the post office and they found a huge triangular cage in a lightless room, the label clearly identifying it as the missing mural. This was exciting!!

Although appreciated by the museum’s knowledgeable staff, getting the USPS authorities to act was a different matter. We even had to deal with flooding in the basement! When the crate was finally opened, there was a collective sigh of relief when it was realized that although there was a water stain on the outside of the crate, there didn’t seem to be any effect on the roll of the mural.

Nothing Controversial About This Arnautoff Mural That Was Once Lost

While the recent storms surrounding a mural at a medical center in San Francisco over whether to save valuable, historic murals from the same period as this Arnautoff mural, there is no doubt at the Richmond Museum of History and Culture that the City’s heritage has to document and preserve. it is a legacy of valuable public art. The active historical museum has not adopted the lazy tin-cup-in-hand begging techniques of fundraising but, thinking outside the box, has implemented a vision of community involvement that has been fun and educational .

On Tuesday, October 20th and November 10th, Scott M. Haskins, the art conservator chosen for the restoration of the mural, in collaboration with the Richmond Museum will present a Zoom webinar to show, not only, the community the interesting aspects on This history and restoration also provides a fascinating educational presentation on what attendees can do on their own to “save their stuff,” or to keep collectibles, heirlooms and family heirlooms at home or in the office. Mr. Haskins is a world-renowned author of several books on this subject and makes it a lot of fun.

“This is a compelling work that captures the diversity of Richmond, a blue-collar community,” said Melinda McCrary, Executive Director of the Museum. “A wide range of occupations, ethnicities and scenes show what life was like in those days. Richmond was a working class American community.” It is a celebration of life created especially for this community.

When Arnautoff, of Russian descent, painted the mural, he was one of the most prominent and influential members of the San Francisco art community. Between 1932 and 1942, he completed 11 public murals, the best known of which is City Life (1934) at Coit Tower in San Francisco. The Richmond Post Office mural was Arnautoff’s last mural of this size and the first time since Coit Tower that he chose to depict a mix of city folk going about their daily tasks. His mural presents life in Richmond as it was 1941 – when America was on the brink of World War II.

Restoring an Art Treasure: Richmond’s Industrial City Mural

The impressive WPA mural was eventually declared lost after it was unceremoniously removed from its historic post office in the 1970s. After finding its home at the Richmond Museum of History and Culture under the enthusiastic stewardship of Director Melinda McCrary, a major effort was made with the museum’s board to find a mural expert to preserve, restore and install the mural for enjoyment and education. generations to come.

Scott M. Haskins, Art Conservator and Author, and his team at the Fine Art Conservation Laboratories were selected as the “A” team. All the mural conservation treatments are done with the idea that the mural will last generations into the future. When a paint company tells you about their best quality paint, they mean it will last 10 years. We think in terms of generations, century. Everything we do has a long-term future in mind,” Haskins said.

He is careful to point out that they (the art conservators) are not artists and do not do anything creative. What they do is detailed work that requires some detective work to determine how and why the original materials used in the painting disintegrate and how they respond to conservation treatments. “The art conservation process involves knowing how the artwork responds to the environment.” Haskins and his team were trained decades ago in Italy and have an impressive history of experience restoring valuable artwork and murals here in the United States.

He notes that the government’s goal in funding art like Arnautoff’s was

establish a legacy. “It was meant to be an artistic imprint on our community,” he said. “From a social conscience point of view, it’s definitely worth saving.”

While “restoring” art might make one think the restorers are painting over something, Haskins says they don’t even have oil paint in their lab. Instead they work with a special paint made for art conservation that can be easily removed, if needed at some point in the future, without damaging the original. They use cotton swabs and work on one colour, one spot at a time. They touch it up using a very small brush with only a few bristles, one dot of color at a time. Then they use to apply varnish in many very thin layers, first with a brush and then with a spray gun so that it is very even.

Haskins says the Richmond mural visually looks to be in good shape but “the drama and traumatic impact of removing it from the wall has taken its toll.” Especially because the glue used in those days was rock hard. And the mural needs cleaning. “We are looking to have no effect on causing more stress. We have to stabilize or cancel out the stress in the painting from the past,” he said.

The Arnautoff Richmond mural presents interesting conservation and restoration challenges. Haskins says there were many new inventions around the Second World War and that the war stimulated new technology: paints and varnishes, glues, resins, such as warships, radiators, new building supplies and so on. “If artists found a spare can of paint lying around When we go into our tediously detailed work, we do not rule out the fact that the artist could have used paint from a type of material that is not random art. We are hyper-vigilant.”

Haskins shares Melinda McCrary’s commitment to preserving the mural, “The idea of ​​preserving our heritage and understanding our legacy is very important to the community,” she said. “Richmond doesn’t have a famous cathedral but we do have things that stimulate or ‘trigger’ our memory. People tell stories that continue the courage and importance of the age. And the this mural or like a picture in a book. It’s a panoramic memory jogging scene.”

On two Tuesdays, October 20th and November 10th, Scott M. Haskins in collaboration with the Richmond Museum presented a Zoom webinar to not only show the community the interesting aspects of the history and restoration of this mural but also to give an educational presentation very interesting. on what attendees can do on their own to “save their stuff,” or keep collectibles, heirlooms and family heirlooms at home or in the office. Mr. Haskins is a world-renowned author of several books on this subject and made the learning process a lot of fun.

The restoration of Richmond, an Industrial City was completed in October 2020.

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