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Jan-06-2007 08:07printcomments

Restored Bush School Library Murals Find New Home at North High

The two murals were painted and installed at Bush in 1938 through the Works Progress Administration federal art program.

historic Depression-era mural originally located at the old Bush Elementary School
Photo: Salem-Keizer School District.

(SALEM) - Members of Salem's art, business and school communities recently completed restoration of two historic Depression-era murals originally located at the old Bush Elementary School.

Over the winter break, the murals were reinstalled in the North Salem High School auditorium. The frames used were specially created for the murals' permanent exhibition.

The two murals were painted by Portland artist Louis Bunce while he was working and teaching at the Salem Federal Art Center. He was assisted by Salem artist Clifford Gleason. Both went on to become distinguished Northwest artists.

The two murals -- “Alice in Wonderland” and “Arabian Nights' Entertainment” -- were painted in tempera on canvas and glued to the walls of the library at Bush.

Each arch-shaped painting was nine feet wide by six feet high. They were painted in a vivid 20th Century modern style, with expressionistic and surreal qualities.

In 2005 (almost 70 years later) the murals were in very good condition, but they faced an uncertain future.

Plans for the expansion of Salem Hospital -- and subsequent demolition of the old Bush Elementary building -- required relocation of the paintings.

Unwilling to see the loss of these historic art treasures, a group of artists, art supporters, school staff, and local community members developed a plan to preserve and relocate the murals.

The design of the new Bush Elementary school site, however, was unsuited to the murals.

The group selected nearby North Salem High School—itself a product of a Depression Era public works project—as a new residence for the paintings.

The murals were successfully installed in the North High auditorium during Winter Break. Much of the work was done by Salem Wood Products, whose president, Dan Koonce, is a North Salem High School graduate.

The restoration project, preserving the historic Louis Bunce and Clifford Gleason murals, was a collaborative effort that included the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem Art Association , and Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

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Henry Ruark January 7, 2007 5:17 am (Pacific time)

Salem is solid common-sense city, with continuing fine displays of community action. This solution to save murals of great value via many good memories for many is example of cooperation consummated.

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