Monday, June 7, 2010

Mural Monday? and Hidden High School Treasures

Just this once?

After all, these are Millard Sheets Murals.

Don't have a picture, because there's nothing to photograph--yet. But as the L.A. Then and Now column revealed yesterday (June 6,2010), Millard Sheets once painted murals for a South Pasadena junior high school (now a middle school). Sheets--a 25-year-old painter who was already becoming well-known--came to the school as a speaker in 1932. The students so impressed him that he offered to paint three fresco-style murals for them in the auditorium. The whole story is in the Los Angeles Times article.

The murals were dedicated two years later, but in the 1940s a maintenance worker messed up a waterproofing formula that effectively whitewashed one mural. Then in the 1960s, the other two murals were plastered over--"supposedly because someone signed the wrong work order."

Today, a local art history professor is leading an effort to have the murals restored--she thinks it can be done. The murals covered three Los Angeles scenes: The Harbor, The City, and The Farm. Oh, would I love to see The Harbor mural!

This reminds me of another story, back in 1999 or 2000, I think. A high school in Gardena stumbled upon a treasure trove of art, some by well-known California painters. Turns out that in the 1920s and 1930s, the graduating class of the high school always bought a painting as a gift for the school. They would raise funds, research artists, and select a work of art. The tradition died out after WWII, and at some point--during one of countless hallway repaintings, all those old pictures were taken down, put into a storage room, and never hung up again. Everyone forgot they were there.

One day, someone unlocked an old door and stumbled onto the collection. Surprise! Not all the paintings were by known artists, but a few were--enough to make the story remarkable.

Wonder how many other surprises are in basements and broom closets--or behind plastered walls--in old schools?

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