‘School’s murals show ‘where education began’ in Worcester’

Telegram & Gazette
July 20th, 2015 by 

Nicole Landry '16 and Sarah Valente '16
Nicole Landry '16 and Sarah Valente '16 discuss signs of wear and tear on one of the four Jenne Magafan murals at Worcester East Middle School. Photo by: Christine Hochkeppel

In a Telegram & Gazette front page story, College of the Holy Cross rising seniors Nicole Landry ’16 and Sarah Valente ’16, were featured for a summer research project they are working on at Worcester East Middle School. The pair is researching four Jenne Magafan (1916-1952) murals in the lobby of the school thorough a grant from the Colleges’ Summer Research in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts, in an effort help restore the murals.

According to the article, Landry and Valente who are both chemistry majors, want to use their experience in laboratories and solvents and apply it to graduate programs in art conservation. Both students are art history minors.

The murals depict scenes from the life of Jonas Rice, Worcester’s first school teacher in the 1700s. “ This hill is where education began in Worcester” said Valente.

A travel allowance from the grant has enabled Landry and Valente to conduct research in Washington D.C., New York City, and Woodstock N.Y. While they were in Woodstock they were able to meet Jenne Magafan’s niece who shared the late artist’s sketchbook with them. The students have kept a blog chronicling their journey and research and you can read more about their project here.

The need for the mural restoration came together with the help of Ken Salins, art teacher at Worcester East Middle School who reached out to the conservators at Worcester Art Museum. As he told the Telegram & Gazette “I wanted to see the murals cared for.” An informal partnership was created between the school, Holy Cross and the Museum. The paintings, which are on canvas are adhered directly to the walls and were not varnished. Over time, the murals have darkened as a result of decades-long exposure to the schools heating system fumes and Grafton Street car exhaust.

The students are being advised by James A. Welu, emeritus director of the Worcester Art Museum, currently visiting lecturer at Holy Cross. Together, they’re in the process of writing text for panels that will describe the murals and the artist who did them.

“There are great murals sitting here in this foyer,” says Landry. “It would be great if we could get the conservation process going so that they’re restored to how they should look, so future generations walking through these halls can appreciate them for what they are.”

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Kelly Ethier.

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