CEDAR RAPIDS — A second of four Depression-era wall murals in the City Council chambers is slated to be uncovered and restored.
This week, the council approved an agreement with the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation that calls for the city to match private donations with either city funds or grant funds to restore the second of the room’s murals. The murals are referred to as Works Progress Administration art, which was created by artists employed by the federal government during the Depression.
The estimated cost of the restoration work is $124,000, said Sandi Fowler, special assistant to the city manager.
City Hall, 101 First St. SE, used to be the federal courthouse, and the room used as the council chambers was once a large courtroom. Before the City Council convened its first meeting there in April 2011, the mural on the room’s north wall had already been uncovered and restored with funds from the U.S. General Services Administration.
The top section of each wall in the chamber features a mural; all of them were painted over, uncovered and then painted over again in the 1960s when questions were raised about the quality of the art. The themes of the murals also raised questions.
Cedar Rapids artist Mel Andringa said the mural to be uncovered and restored next addresses archaeology, the introduction of agriculture, the making of a documentary film and other scenes. Fowler said the theme of the piece is “inherited culture.”
Fowler said Tom Aller, president of Alliant Energy’s Interstate Power and Light Co., has agreed to help raise private donations for the art restoration work. Meanwhile, the city continues to pursue grant funds for its half of the project cost, she added.
She said bids for the restoration work will be sought, likely this winter, if funds are secured.