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The future of beloved depression-era murals remains uncertain for Clare Public Schools

Mast Murals1- Clare.jpg
Courtesy of the Clare County Historical Society
Four murals from the Works Progress Administration are painted in the Clare Middle School auditorium. Early estimates show that it will cost nearly $500,000 to move the depression-era murals from the wall and to a new location. This coming May, voters will decide if they want to tear down the middle school to build a new high school.

Clare Public Schools is trying to save four depression-era murals in its middle school auditorium. Early estimates show that moving the murals could be cost-prohibitive for the district.

The four murals depict life in the 1930s and are painted on 100-year-old walls. The artworks were a part of the Works Progress Administration, a new-deal program that put millions of people back to work during the Great Depression.

School administrators are exploring a bond issue to build its new high school where the middle school currently sits and could be voted on as early as May 2023.

Superintendent Jim Walter said they want to save the art, but the murals are owned by the federal government. Walter added that without the government’s help, moving them will be an expensive venture for the district.

"We have one estimate, from a conservatory out of California, that is close to a half a million dollars. And we actually expect after talking with the General Services Administration, and the conservators that they use, those costs to escalate," said Walter.

Walter said the district is in contact with a dozen contractors to try and find a solution to move the murals to a new location. One of Walter's top concerns is opening decades old walls without understanding what's behind it. In a perfect scenario, Walter said he would like to integrate the murals into the entrance of the future high school.

"I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy the history," said Walter. "I wouldn’t say there’s any controversy or anything but we certainly have a growing population that are concerned about what are the community needs as far as a school facility than they are concerned about the art."

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.