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'Where the City Has Come From': CR Restores Mural

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Re-imagining the past can start with just a few small brush strokes, but end with a giant piece of history.

That is what is happening at in the City Council chambers at City Hall, as art conservator Scott Haskins and his two assistants work for three weeks to peel back layers of paint decades deep from the surface of the second of four murals in the room.

The mural, entitled "Inherited Culture" was painted by Harry Donald Jones in 1936. It depicts men discovering artifacts from ancient Mayan civilizations, learning the modern techniques of agriculture and watching the progress of industry.

The theme of the painting is remarkably close to the focus of Haskins' work.

"We are here today because of the people that have been before us," Haskins said. "So we build on what other people have worked on, so that's what art is and why it touches us."

Just as Haskins and his assistants build upon a work of genius by filling out the canvas with extra paint, they also have to make up for the mistakes made in the mural's 76-year lifespan.

Haskins had circled sections of the mural in chalk; they show the parts of the canvas that have pulled away from one of the many layers of the wall. To fix them, Haskins injects the wall with an adhesive to make sure everything gets reattached.

Once it's set, though, anyone can come enjoy it. Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler hopes people do just that.

"It's free and open to anyone that wants to come look at it, whether you're attending a meeting or you just want to come see it. That's a pretty neat way to incorporate art into everyday life," Fowler said.

If, for no other reason, to remember the past.

"I mean, this is City Hall. This is kind of the center of government in Cedar Rapids, and I think it's highly appropriate that there be a time capsule from the past that shows people where the city has come from," Haskins said.

The 48-foot long mural is the second of four that the city plans to uncover in the room. Fowler is hoping to uncover a third in the fall of this year, but the city needs to get more grants and funding first. Each mural costs about $125,000 to restore.

A fund has been set up at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation for interested parties to make donations.

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