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Adopt-A-Mural: The Program

Barry Faulkner mural, Early History of Manhattan New York

In response to the deterioration of many of New York City’s outdoor statues and public murals in hospitals, schools and libraries, and the limited resources to preserve them, the Municipal Art Society initiated the Adopt-A-Monument program in 1987 and the Adopt-A-Mural program in 1991. Both programs were born as a plea to corporate and private donors to support the conservation the city’s most neglected public statues and threatened murals.

Following the success of the Monument program, the Society, in partnership with the Art Commission, conceived the Adopt-A-Mural program in 1991. Seventeen threatened public artworks out of the city’s 430 murals in libraries, schools and hospitals, were selected to be saved. Fifteen have found public sponsors and been restored through this project.

The History of Mankind in Terms of Mental and Physical Labor – Maxwell Starr’s epic mural The History of Mankind in Terms of Mental and Physical Labor, commissioned by the WPA in 1941 for Brooklyn Technical High School, was restored in 1997 with the help of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association. The Adopt-A-Mural program oversaw the restoration in which conservators removed dirt and flaking paint, painted in missing sections, and reaffixed the original canvas, returning the imposing mural to its former grandeur in time for Brooklyn Tech’s 75th anniversary.

Scenes from the Early History of Manhattan – A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was awarded to the Society for the restoration of the mural series, Scenes from the Early History of Manhattan (1916-1921) by Barry Faulkner in Washington Irving High School. The grant was matched by generous patrons, the Putnam Foundation, the Herman Goldman Foundation, the Gramercy Park Foundation, and the New York City Board of Education. A unique component of the project involved internships for several talented students to work as apprentices with the conservators during the restoration. Lectures on conservation and a fresco demonstration, prepared for a wider student audience, were incorporated into this innovative project completed in 1999.

Scenes of New York, Old and New – Funding was secured by the Board of Education for the delightful WPA mural, Scenes of New York, Old and New , (1937), by Sacha Moldovan in P.S. 64, Brooklyn. The four portable panels in that series, threatened by tears, water damage and heavy dirt films, were conserved in 1998 under the Adopt-A-Mural program through the continued generosity of Reba and Dave Williams.

Scenes from Children’s Literature – The enchanting mural cycle by Willy Pogany, Scenes from Children’s Literature, painted in 1921 for the Heckscher Children’s Theatre now in El Museo del Barrio, was restored in 1998 through the Adopt-A-Mural program. A grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children in 1991 served as a catalyst for a major investment of funds by the City of New York to restore the theater itself. This last phase of renovating the theater began in the summer of June 1999-November 2000. During this time, the murals were carefully protected, for they are the jewels of this unusual space.