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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, November 30

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Art Mon Jan 26 2009

Out of the Lunchroom: Lane Tech's WPA Murals

Fourteen years ago Flora Doody, a teacher from Lane Tech High School, made a call to the Chicago Conservation Center (CCC) about a school mural that was detaching from a wall. What CCC head conservator Barry Bauman found when he arrived to examine the painting was not just a damaged fresco, but a massive collection of Works Progress Administration and pre-WPA-era murals -- 67 in all -- many of them badly in need of repair.


After a conservation proposal was made to restore three of the northwest side high school's murals, Doody began fundraising to conserve the remaining 64, conducting student docent tours and bake sales. Her grassroots effort paid off: the CCC launched a sweeping campaign to track down, analyze and restore many of the city's WPA and pre-WPA-era murals, beginning with works that had been whitewashed -- literally buried under two layers of white paint -- at Lucy Flower High School, and eventually expanding to 38 additional schools.

Today 11 of Lane Tech High School's pre-WPA-era murals are on display at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of "Hidden Treasures: The Lane Tech Murals," which runs through March 1st. The murals on display were the earliest created at the high school, from 1908 to 1913, and were done on stretched canvas (read: portable).

Much has been made of the paintings' arrangement (in their original narrative position as intended by the artists, not the way they usually appear at Lane Tech), and their conservation by School of the Art Institute students (SAIC students also painted the murals a century ago -- hooray for the circle of life), but what really stands out about the collection is that of four students who created the murals at the turn of the century, two were female and one African American. And while the murals in this exhibit are surrounded with Lane Tech ephemera, giving the impression that they were meant only to motivate students on their way to biology class, in truth they were created to galvanize a nation in crisis.

Hmmm, a government spending what little spare change it has to fund the arts and instill in its citizens the value of hard work? Hooray for the circle of life.

A tour of the exhibit is available Saturday, Feb. 7 at 10am. The event is free but reservations are required. Call 312-742-1190 for more information.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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