Workers finish removing 763,000 tiles from Pershing’s mural | local government
After 65 years, the giant 763,000-tile mural disappeared from the facade of the Pershing Center, saved by a small group of people determined not to see it demolished along with the old auditorium.
This small group, led by arts advocate Liz Shea-McCoy, raised the $844,000 needed to safely remove the tiles from the 38ft by 140ft mural before city officials begin demolition of the Centennial Mall building.
Within four months, nearly 850 people from across Nebraska and beyond donated to the cause, and on July 20, Mike McCullough, owner of MTZ Properties, and his team began the painstaking process of removing the tiles. .
“We did the impossible in four months,” Shea-McCoy said. “I couldn’t be happier. I am so proud of the generosity of Nebraskans. This is just one great example of how important it is for people to come together to save a piece of Nebraska history.
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The mural was designed by Leonard Thiessen and William Hammond and when completed in 1957 it was thought to be the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Thousands of people walked under the mural on their way to sporting events, concerts and graduations.
The tiles were removed by gluing a sticky, specialized material, similar to contact paper, to 4-foot-by-8-foot sections of the mural, then using a putty-like tool behind the mural and carefully removing the squares, section by section.
Each section – about 250 in all – was placed on wooden pallets with raised sides to keep space between them, and are stored in one of McCullough’s warehouses.
Weather cooperated and allowed work to finish faster than McCullough had expected and workers removed the last tiles on Friday, just before a music festival at Centennial Mall on Friday night, Shea-McCoy said.
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This is the first phase.
Now the group needs to raise an additional $2 million to restore and reinstall the mural. Shea-McCoy said the group was discussing with the city the best location for the mural, possibly a park, at eye level, with lighting allowing people to see the 38 figures representing an array of sporting events, dance and circus.
Shea-McCoy said she would like to complete the second phase of fundraising next spring. The auditorium is being demolished as part of a development of this block.
“I would like the momentum to continue,” she said. “I just have to keep this energy going.”
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Tax-deductible donations for the restoration and reinstallation of the mural can be made online at https://www.nshsf.org/projects/pershing-mural/ or by mailing a check to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation (128 N. 13th St., Suite 1010, Lincoln, NE 68508), noting Pershing Mural in the “memo” line of the check.
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