GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 30, 2013

Facelifts for City Hall murals

Arts panel restoring hall's paintings

GLOUCESTER — If the City Hall WPA murals could talk, they’d tell stories of councilmen smoking celebratory cigars in hallways, warm winter nights perched above hissing radiators, and tales of all the dust kicked up since Charles Allen Winter first painted them back in the 1930s.

That’s why a handful of the murals high on the walls of the first floor of City Hall are undergoing restoration which will continue over the next three weeks. Smoke and urban grit build up has borne down on the paintings overtime and some cleaning and retouching with acrylic paint had already begun to sharpen and enhance the paintings by the end of the first session Tuesday.

Gloucester’s Committee for the Arts worked for years to raise the $28,000 that will fund a restoration of the murals that provide character to the City Hall, according to Catherine Ryan, the mayor’s representative on the committee.

“A lot of this art has waited over 75 years for attention and their time has come,” Ryan said. “It’s a lot of work that has gotten us to this point, and it’s going to be continued work.”

Funding for restoration stemmed from seARTS grants, Massachusetts Cultural Council funding and Community Preservation Act appropriations. Individuals and local foundations also chipped in, according to Ryan.

The committee hired Peter Williams Museum Services to retouch and conserve the art, work that the company’s owner, Peter Williams, said had likely never been done on the City Hall’s murals.

“It isn’t often that cities can afford to do this and it takes a lot of time for people to realize they’re dirty,” Williams said.

With the help of painting conservators Jackie Trombley and Stephanie Angelo, the murals should be refreshed in three weeks time, with the two women working about four hours a day, three days a week.

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