• McKinley School Mural (Photo - Mike Pashistoran).

      McKinley School Mural (Photo – Mike Pashistoran).

      Do your interests span any of the following: History, Art, Preservation/Restoration, or Education? What about our city of Pasadena, or Art? I bet y’all are in at least one of those groups. So, what follows should interest most of you cultured readers!

      By Mike Pashistoran

      Pasadena’s McKinley School has a wonderful, historic, mural in their library, completed after several years in 1942, by artist Frank Tolles Chamberlin. But, allow me to let the good people on the McKinley School Mural Restoration Committee speak more intelligently on this mural:

      The McKinley School Mural was completed in 1942, as part of the first federally funded art program in American history – the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). The artist, Frank Tolles Chamberlin, chose the McKinley School in Pasadena as a site.  After spending time in classrooms, it was Chamberlin’s idea that students would suggest ideas for the mural’s subject matter.  With a typical Southern California landscape as a backdrop, forty-nine students of different backgrounds participate in a number of activities such as chemistry, sculpture, radio transmission, horseback riding and blacksmithing.  The mural conveys the artist’s passion and faith in the power of education.

      Councilmember Andy Wilson and Suzanne Morris, Associate Conservator of AZConservation (Photo Mike Pashistoran).

      Councilmember Andy Wilson and Suzanne Morris, Associate Conservator of AZConservation (Photo Mike Pashistoran).

      “Great, interesting – but what does this have to do with me?”

      If you fit into one of the interest groups I mentioned at the beginning (maybe a student parent or even an alumni!) then hopefully you’ll also be interested to be a valuable part of the group of good people donating funds (small to large) to restore the McKinley mural. The committee is charged with the fundraising.  Age (since the 1930s) and then a freak act of nature damaged it during a rainstorm while the roof was under repair in 2005!  It’s showing its age, wear & tear – I’ve seen it up close and personal.

      The mural needs $100K to bring it back to its youthful life and keep it a “sight to see” for future generations.  The mural fundraising committee is comprised of McKinley Principal Charles Heaton, Pasadena City Councilmember Andy Wilson, Brian Biery, Rochelle Branch, Ken Chawkins, Alicia Gorecki, Dianne Magee, Carol Potter, Pam Thyret, Vera Vignes and Pasadena Heritage.  Its chairperson is the tireless Claire Bogaard a founder of preservation group Pasadena Heritage!

      Fundraising committee chairperson Claire Bogaard (Photo - Mike Pashistoran).

      Fundraising committee chairperson Claire Bogaard (Photo – Mike Pashistoran).

      Among the reasons Chairperson Bogaard told me she’s working to fund the conservation of the mural are:

      Why is it important?  I love the story behind the mural and the fact that it was funded – in part by the WPA.  I always thought that the WPA and the funds that were released by the government to help increase and provide  employment opportunities during the depression was neat and innovative.

      I like the fact that Chamberlin was a local artist and that he worked in cooperation with the students to create the mural. I guess I find murals particularly interesting.  I especially love the murals created by artists from Mexico some years ago and I am fascinated by the great works of Kenton Nelson  – again right here in Pasadena.

      The mural in McKinley School is a real treasure and I view it as a treasure for the entire City.  It serves as a great learning opportunity, too, for the students.

      I’m acquainted with and have met several of these members. They’re good people doing good sacrificial work. For example, Alicia Gorecki is both a wonderful local artist as well as a McKinley School parent.

      Local artist Alicia Gorecki (Photo - Mike Pashistoran).

      Local artist Alicia Gorecki (Photo – Mike Pashistoran).

      Alicia told me:

      The first time I saw the Chamberlin Mural was on a tour of McKinley as I was considering options for my own son’s education. We stopped by the library and I was awestruck by the scale and content of the Mural. The children represented are active in so many varied and intriguing projects, all in areas of technical and artistic skills I am passionate about and it was there in an K-8 school! I saw it as a source of inspiration for students to ask questions.

      The historical significance was equally intriguing and in my opinion incredibly valuable not just to the students that pass through the halls of McKinley, but also to the community as a whole. It is a treasure that helps us look to the past and reminds us of the value of art throughout time to tell a story of who we are and what we care about. This treasure however has been damaged and the school or district can’t possibly take on the restoration alone.  We along with prominent community members are working together to save this beauty.

      So, if you can spare anything small or large ($1, 10, 100, 1000, whatever…)  to help a little bit of art and history it would be most appreciative, to say the least.  Here’s a quick and easy way to do so by clicking on the Pasadena Educational Foundation website.

      I’m sure everyone directly involved in bringing this great mural back to life will thank you much for whatever contribution you can make. There is much more I could write about this mural, its history, the artist, but hopefully this will peak your interest to investigate further into another part of Pasadena’s Gold!

      Mike Pashistoran contributes to Colorado Boulevard Network & other websites. He is a member of the Pasadena Museum of History and Pasadena Heritage and co-administers the popular Pasadena Politics page and group on Facebook.

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      1. Mary Laura Hackney says:

        I knew the Chamberlin and my brother was his son’s good friends. I posed for o ne of his art classes when I was 8. The bare back is my brother, Amm. Raymond E. Gonzalez. It is on the right hand side.
        Chamberlin’s wife was a fine artist and they had a studio on Green St. My brother is still in touch with Walter, his son.

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