ANDERSONVILLE — Chicago Public Schools is sending crews to Lyman Trumbull Elementary School on Thursday and Friday to dismantle and remove two Progressive Era murals adorning the entryways to the auditorium at the closing school.
The oil paint murals depicting Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World were identified in a 2002 book written by Chicago Conservation Center CEO Heather Becker, "Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive and WPA-Era murals in the Chicago Public Schools."
There were originally three murals at the school, but Trumbull had a sign glued over one in 1999, according to the book.
A CPS spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the school district would remove the items and put them in storage until it decided what to do with them long-term. He said they were CPS property.
A pro-Trumbull group, Friends of Trumbull, said it hoped CPS would delay removing the murals until the end of the school year in a couple of weeks.
"We respectfully ask CPS to hold off from dismantling our school for two more weeks, so the students and staff don't have to be subjected to this callous behavior," Friends of Trumbull said in a Facebook post. "These children love their school, some have been here for nine years! Please allow them to finish their time in the school they love, and not let the last memories they have of this beautiful and historic building be ones of CPS pillaging the expensive and significant treasures that lie within."
CPS said holding off was not possible given how much work needs to be done between now and the beginning of next school year to close school buildings and prepare welcoming schools.
Ali Burke, a Friends of Trumbull member, and a parent at the school, said "It's so cruel" to the kids at the school.
"You're not only closing the school," she said, "but you're going to start dismantling it in their last weeks there?"
Removal of historic art is slated for every closing school where such items exist, not just at Trumbull, according to CPS. A list of schools where art will be removed was not immediately available.
"There's so little trust in CPS right now," Burke said. "No one knows what's going to happen to these works of art."
She said parents and others were worried about a "cultural fire sale" scenario where CPS would sell off the art to the highest bidder. She said the murals at Trumbull should be given to the Edgewater Historical Society.
The group Becker heads, the Chicago Conservation Center, in 1994 launched an effort to preserve historic murals in CPS schools. Nearly 440 murals are estimated to exist in CPS, which means the system is sitting on one of the largest remaining mural collections from early 20th century America, according to the center.
The artist behind the murals at Trumbull is unknown, and Becker's book indicated they had been there at least since 1913.