Ceiling mural discovery kicks off fundraising drive

Library officials were blown away when workers started removing the “popcorn” coating from the ceiling of the Brand Library & Art Center. Below the coating, they found whimsical images painted on the ceiling sometime around 1905.

There were cherubs, dragons, griffins, roses, a pair of peacock look-a-likes and chardonnay grapes. But the beautifully designed ceiling was crumbling as the city worked on the $9.5 million renovation of the library.

“It was very fragile. You could almost breathe it in,” said Carolyn Flemming, facilities and building project administrator at the Glendale Central Library.

Despite the disrepair, officials knew they wanted to save part of the original ceilings, which could provide a glimpse into what the building — known as El Miradero — looked like when Leslie Brand, a businessman who helped boost Glendale in the early 20th century, lived there.

“We wanted something original to be preserved,” Flemming said.

Restoration experts were able to save six pieces that range from 15 inches by 18 inches to 30 inches by 22 1/2 inches from the dining and sitting rooms. Officials want to frame them and put them on display for the public, but don't have the funds.

That's where the Associates of Brand Library & Arts Center stepped in. The nonprofit group that has long supported the arts-focused library plans to host a fundraiser this weekend to raise the nearly $6,000 needed to preserve and frame the ceiling pieces.

The fundraiser, dubbed “Glendale Collects,” will take guests on Saturday inside a historical home in Glendale with an expansive art collection that includes tapestries, folk art and abstract paintings.

Tickets are no longer available for the event, but the organization plans to host more in-home events highlighting personal art collections in the future to fund library programs and projects.

“It's not all about Picasso and Monet. People collect all kinds of things in different price ranges,” said Arlene Vidor, president of the association. “We want to get people excited about just the joy of having art in your environment, in your personal space, and about having a personal connection with what people in our community are doing with art.”

Vidor said she expects the fundraiser to raise enough money to pay for the framing and preservation of the paintings.

The ceiling sections are set to be on display in the library when it reopens to the public in March, Flemming said. Work on the 5,000-square-foot library and the 21,000-square-foot art center, which was added to the building in 1969, started last July.

Painters mimicked the Victorian designs they found on the newly renovated ceilings. They painstakingly copied the designs to bring back the original atmosphere of the historic landmark, Flemming said.

“They recreated the patterns that are so accurate,” she added.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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