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Restoring a Clare treasure

CLARE — The Clare County Arts Council (CCAC) is presenting a showing of the priceless Gerald Mast murals located in the Clare Middle School auditorium since 1938.  As part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), these four huge murals have been appraised at between $20 million and $30 million.

The murals in the Clare Middle School. COURTESY GRAPHIC

Restored in 1988 by Dayton Spence, a nationally known restoration artist, the work was due to be cleaned in 2008 and again in 20 years. This has not happened.

Tom Moline, Superintendent of Clare Public Schools in 2004, said, “The murals show the relationship between God and learning in the lunettes (half-moon shapes), William Shakespeare, early American history and Greek and Spanish influence, including Doric columns.  It is interesting that all of the questions posed in the murals apply to today’s world. These are questions we are still asking ourselves.” Moline will be the keynote speaker at the Sept. 8, 2012 event to be held at the Clare Middle School beginning at 11 a.m.

The showing of these murals will kick off a fundraising benefit to restore the magnificent stone statue titled Pioneer Mother by Samuel Cashwan, which was dedicated the same day as the murals in 1938.

Samuel Cashwan (1900-1988) was a supervisor in the sculpture and ceramics program of the Federal Art Project. This Depression-era program paid artists to create art for public facilities.  Cashwan has numerous WPA-sponsored sculptures in Lansing and East Lansing. The eight-foot stone statue stands outside the front doors of the Clare Middle School, was, at the time only school building in Clare.

The Pioneer Mother statue stands in front of the Clare Middle School. Proceeds from the Depression Era Art Walking Tour and Soup Line will go towards the restoration of the statue. COURTESY PHOTO.

The Pioneer Mother statue was picked from several drawings submitted by Cashwan to Clare High School students who were involved in choosing the subject matter for the statue. In March of 1937, Supt. Kennedy said on the subject for composition of the statue, “We are trying to develop the term ‘Pioneer’ as the name for our athletic teams.  This composition would help along that line and would carry plenty of local significance as this was certainly a pioneer lumbering settlement.”  Sketches were submitted and the students chose “The Pioneer Mother,” investing money from the senior class fund to help pay for the stone.   The statue is made of Indiana limestone and is need of serious restoration.

The “Depression Era Art Walking Tour and Soup Line” will begin at the Clare Middle School (old high school) for a program headed by keynote speaker, Tom Moline, former superintendent of Clare Public schools, view the Pioneer Mother Statue outside, eat bean soup and corn bread, and take a walking tour to view the Depression Era-art at the U.S. Post Office and the Congregational United Church of Christ, ending at the Doherty Hotel to hear the fun stories about the leprechaun murals in the tap room of the hotel. Tickets are $5 per person and available from any CCAC member or the Doherty Hotel. For more information, call (808) 345-2117 or e-mail sandoherty8@yahoo.com.

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