CPA funds Classic Art Restoration Projects across the Commonwealth

May 6, 2015: The Community Preservation Act (CPA) allows communities to set aside funds to pay for projects that might not otherwise be covered in municipal budgets. While most communities do their best to be good stewards of historic resources, without CPA it's difficult to find the funds necessary to restore important works of art. Read on to learn more about how Gloucester and other CPA communities are using their CPA funds to rejuvenate and preserve municipal works of art.

Gloucester City Hall Murals

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) program was one of many new programs developed by the Roosevelt Administration to combat unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One part of the WPA program involved providing paid employment for those working in the arts. Gloucester’s City Hall benefited greatly from the WPA program, as it is now home to several murals painted during that time. Recently, more than eighty years since their original creation, the murals at Gloucester City Hall began to show signs of needing restoration, and the perfect funding option for restoring them was found in Gloucester’s CPA funds.

The first phase of the multi-phase project to restore the murals began in 2012, with a $46,000 budget ($15,000 in CPA funds, along with some funding from grants and a private donor.) This first phase included restoration of the murals in the public areas of the building, as well as one in the mayor’s office. The second phase of the project is due to begin soon, with a budget of approximately $50,000 ($35,000 in CPA funds along with additional grants and more funding from a private donor.) This second phase will restore several more murals in the public spaces of city hall for the entire community to enjoy. The scope of the restoration work varies from mural to mural, but generally includes cleaning, repair, and in one case, the relocation of a mural to an area further from damaging radiator heat.

Over time, the murals have become quite the talking point for Gloucester residents, and the restoration project is renewing community interest in them. Gloucester senior citizens proudly point out images of themselves or family members in their younger days in one mural that used students from the local high school as models. The mural artists - Frederick Stoddard and Charles Allan Winter - capture the essence of Gloucester in them, portraying the city not simply as a fishing community, but also as a city rich in art history. Dale Brown of Gloucester’s Committee for the Arts describes the mural restoration project as “exciting” and a nice example of  volunteer committees working together for something really great for the community.

Charles Allan Winter's "City Council in Session.'' Restored
Charles Allan Winter's "City Council in Session." Restored in Gloucester.

Royalston Library Paintings

As part of a two phase project, three portraits at the Phineas S. Newton Library in Royalston were cleaned and restored. The overall cost of the project was approximately $12,500, with $5,000 from the town’s CPA funds. The additional funding came from a private donor. Phase I involved the cleaning and restoration of a portrait of the library’s benefactor, Phineas S. Newton, that had fallen victim to a damaging coat of mold over the years. Phase II involved the restoration of two portraits on wood of Joseph Estabrook and his wife, Ruth Greenwood Estabrook, a well-known couple in the town. The portraits of the couple are thought to have been painted by renowned artist Ethan Allen Greenwood as a wedding gift to the newlyweds. The Worcester Art Museum was tapped by the community to complete the cleaning and restoration process. Librarian Kathy Morris expressed her appreciation of the project, “We are so glad [to have the portraits restored]; it is especially nice to have the painting of our benefactor, Phineas, restored”.

Phinehas S. Newton Library, Royalston Before, During and After Restoration
Portrait of Phineas S. Newton, Benefactor of Royalston's Library, Before, During and After Restoration

Edgartown Whaling Church Mural

In 2013, $25,000 in CPA funds, matched by the same amount in private donations, were secured to restore a trompe l’oeil (French for “fool the eye”) style mural in the Edgartown Whaling Church. The mural was originally painted in the 1840s, and was later lost when the decision was made by the congregation to paint over it at some point. A local artist, Margot Datz, was able to recreate the murals referencing a single grainy photograph taken before the mural was painted over. The Church houses the community’s annual town meeting, where CPA warrant articles are voted on, as well as several other community events.

Edgartown Whaling Church Mural Restored by Margot Datz
Trompe L'Oeil Mural Restored by Margot Datz for Edgartown

Norfolk Library Misty Meadows Painting 

The town of Norfolk appropriated $5,150 in CPA funds to restore a painted plaster mural from Misty Meadow Farm painted by Emily Jacques. The mural was previously salvaged when Jacques’ Norfolk home was to be torn down in 2000. In 2008 the mural was restored and installed in the town’s library with a plaque acknowledging the use of CPA funds.

"Misty Meadows Farm" By Emily Jacques Moved to and Restored at the Norfolk Public Library
"Misty Meadows Farm" by Emily Jacques Now Housed at the Norfolk Public Library

Braintree Town Hall Painting 

The Braintree Historical Society used CPA funds to restore and preserve an 11.8’ x 5’ oil painting on canvas entitled “A View of the Landing at Weymouth & Braintree as it was circa 1850.” The mural was restored by a specialist in fine painting conservation and is now displayed for the public in the lobby of the Town Hall.

"A View of the Landing at Weymouth & Braintree as it was circa 1850" on Restored and on Display at Braintree Town Hall
"A View of the Landing at Weymouth & Braintree as it was circa 1850", Braintree Town Hall