Heritage Preservation (Washington, DC)

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Mural image of a young African American girl with a fanciful background of mountains, sunrise, other children.

Norma Montaya’s mural Innocence (1973) in Los Angeles is one of the murals being preserved by Heritage Preservation’s Rescue Public Murals initiative. Photo by Moira Egan

Public murals can enliven neighborhoods, offering commentary on events and challenges in the community. Unfortunately, weather can cause damage to the artwork, which without attention, will disappear.

DC’s Heritage Preservation created a project to help preserve such public art. In FY 2006, Heritage Preservation received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $35,000 for Rescue Public Murals, a project developed to identify and preserve the nation’s outdoor mural masterpieces.

Individuals and communities submitted information about murals throughout the nation to Heritage Preservation. An advisory committee made up of muralists, conservators, and art historians are assessing the murals and determining ten that are both the most endangered and significant outdoor murals. For each one, the committee will develop recommendations for conservation, maintenance, and fundraising. At present, three works have been picked for conservation.

Two of the works chosen were Norma Montoya’s Innocence (1973) and Mario Torero and C.A.C.A.’s We Are Not a Minority (1976). Created at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles’s property at Estrada Courts, the murals exemplify the passions of the Chicano movimiento, the movement for social justice. A distinctly different mural assessed by the committee, Homage to Seurat: La Grand Jatte in Harlem (1986) is the last remaining New York City mural by Eva Crockcroft, an artist, art historian, and author instrumental in the national community murals movement.

In addition to preserving the ten identified murals and drawing attention to their artistic and historical significance, the advisory committee is also identifying options for a national database of murals and is assembling best practices on mural creation.

(From the NEA 2006 Annual Report)