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Rediscovered a few years ago in woeful disrepair by a dedicated high school teacher, the murals of Chicagos public schools had long been painted over, torn down, forgotten. Dating back almost a century, these extraordinary murals, painted by celebrated artists such as Edgar Britton, Mitchell Siporin, Lucille Ward, and Edward Millman, were created during the Progressive (1904-1933) and New Deal (1933-1943) eras. Art for the People tells the inspiring story of their preservation: a project that brought conservators, historians, politicians, educators, and students together in a united cause, and that brought nearly 450 murals to light across nearly 70 schools-making this the largest mural preservation project in the U.S. as well as the largest concentration of historical murals in the country. Hundreds of color photos capture the dazzling array of murals and the restoration process. A complete reference and a finely produced record of a neglected treasure, Art for the People is a dramatic demonstration of the power of human hands working together not just to create art, but also to save it.
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Heather Becker is vice-president of the Chicago Conservation Center. She lives in Chicago.From Booklist:
Good news is rare in America's troubled urban schools, so when forgotten treasures--hundreds of Progressive- and New Deal-era murals--were discovered languishing in Chicago's public schools, teachers, administrators, politicians, and curators quickly stepped in to restore, protect, and celebrate these invaluable works of art. Painted with government support around the time of the Great Depression, these striking compositions illustrate American and Illinois history, the rise of the industrial age, and the heroic efforts of the working class, as well as depicting landscapes and characters from children's literature. Artist, conservator, and historian Becker chronicles in instructive and enjoyable detail the entire history of Chicago's vibrant school murals, one of the largest collections in the country, from their creation to concealment beneath layers of grime and paint to their successful restoration. The before-and-after reproductions are lush and the commentary scintillating as Becker and her contributors, including muralists, teachers, students, artist Ed Paschke, and author Studs Terkel, discuss the murals and lament the fact that public support for art is now only a dream. Donna Seaman
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