The city of Inglewood has made a down payment on the future of a historic wall mosaic battered by man and nature.
City Council members voted Tuesday to provide $10,000 to a residents group working to preserve the 240-foot-long “History of Transportation” mural in Centinela Park. The 48-year-old mosaic was designed by Helen Lundeberg, one of California’s foremost artists, and commissioned by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.
The money was requested for start-up funds by the Historic Site Preservation Committee, a group of residents seeking a consultant to advise them on restoring the mosaic. It is one of three such artworks in the country done in petrachrome, a process in which colored bits of stone are cast in concrete. The mural has faded over time and has been damaged by runaway cars, graffiti and vandals as well as by attempts to protect and repair the artwork that have left nail holes and concrete patches.
Virginia Robinson, chairwoman of the committee, said the city funding will enable her group to hire experts to examine the mosaic and propose methods of restoration. The majority of the group, including Councilwoman Ann Wilk, favors moving the mural to a more accessible and protected site, such as the south lawn of City Hall.
“I want to see it moved,” Wilk said after Tuesday’s Council meeting. “If we are going to pay the money to restore it, it should be accessible to as many people as possible.”
But such a task poses problems and expense. Lisa Waters, an administrator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who is advising the committee, said conservators can charge as much as $60 an hour. And she said there are historic and practical arguments for leaving the artwork at its current site, a curving wall on the south edge of the park.
“It has historical significance where it is,” she said. “Moving it could costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there’s always the possibility of more damage. I don’t like any percentage risk of more damage.”
In an interview earlier this year, artist Lundeberg also expressed concern about moving the mosaic, which consists of 60 Masonite panels attached to the wall. She said it might be preferable to beautify and protect the mural where it is.