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Rescuing Public Murals across the USA

US-wide Effort Has Been Launched to Rescue Public Murals

Rescue Public Murals, a national project to save public murals in the United States, has launched an initiative to collect information on important outdoor murals that are deteriorating in communities nationwide.

Rescue Public Murals, based at the national non-profit organization, Heritage Preservation, will bring public attention to U.S. murals, document their unique artistic and historic contributions, and secure the expertise and support to save them. The project recently received significant funding from the Getty Foundation, as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Booth Heritage Foundation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

Individuals Requested to Notify of Murals in Need of Care

Individuals and communities are invited to submit information about public murals, particularly those that appear to be in poor condition, to

These recommendations will help Rescue Public Murals form local committees that will work with Heritage Preservation and professional conservators to assess the condition of highly endangered murals in the United States and raise awareness and funding for their preservation.

In 2007, Rescue Public Murals will select 10 deteriorating murals for in-depth assessments involving a conservator, the artist who created the mural, and community supporters. The assessments will result in recommendations for conservation, maintenance, and fund-raising. Heritage Preservation also has begun planning for a comprehensive
database of U.S. murals.

Public murals enliven neighborhoods, inform citizens, and comment on events, aspirations, and challenges in communities. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make murals so distinctive also lead to their disintegration. Public murals' accessibility exposes them to weather and
graffiti. The surfaces public murals are painted on can damage the artwork over time. Many of the hundreds of mural art masterpieces from the 1970s and 1980s are in serious disrepair. Without prompt attention, they will vanish.

Save Our Sculpture [SOS] Strategies Adopted

Rescue Public Murals will be modeled on Save Outdoor Sculpture (SOS!), an award-winning program of Heritage Preservation that inventoried 32,000 works of outdoor sculpture nationwide and resulted in more than $8 million being spent on saving outdoor sculpture. "SOS! taught us that documenting public art is a vital step in ensuring its proper, long-term care. With heightened public awareness, these treasures of our community life were preserved for future generations. We look forward to having the same success with public murals," says Heritage Preservation's President Lawrence L. Reger.

An advisory committee of muralists, conservators, art historians, and public art professionals will advise Heritage Preservation on Rescue Public Murals. Co-chairing the committee are Timothy W. Drescher, a mural scholar and former co-editor of Community Murals magazine, and Will Shank, a independent conservator and curator and past head of conservation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

"The Getty is delighted to provide support for the first phase of Rescue Public Murals," says Joan Weinstein, interim director of the Getty Foundation. "Public murals are vital community assets, and a national strategy to document and preserve them will benefit artists, scholars, and the broader public."

With grant support, Heritage Preservation has designed the Rescue Public Murals Web site, compiled a list of individuals and organizations active in the mural arts movement, and developed guidelines on how to involve the community, artists, and conservators in the process of assessing murals. While Rescue Public Murals recognizes the significant historic and artistic value of public murals within structures, the project's initial priority will be murals that are outdoors and thus especially vulnerable.

Heritage Preservation is a nonprofit organization working to save the objects that embody our history, partnering with conservators, collecting institutions, civic groups, and concerned individuals across the nation who care about preserving pieces of our shared and individual pasts.

Contact Details

For more information on Rescue Public Murals, contact project director Kristen Overbeck Laise, Heritage Preservation, 1012 14th Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington DC 20005, 202-233-0800, or

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu. Additional information is available on the Getty Web site at

Published Date: December 19th 2006

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