San Francisco Art Institute Gets Save America's Treasures Grant to Restore New Deal-Era Frescoes

(October 4, 2019)

San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) was awarded a $94,000 Save America’s Treasures grant to restore and conserve two major New Deal-era frescoes on the walls of SFAI's historic campus in the North Beach neighborhood.

The frescoes, which had been whitewashed and forgotten for decades, were rediscovered in late 2013 by SFAI’s VP of Operations & Facilities, Heather Hickman Holland, who noticed ghostly, web-like traces along the walls of a corner hallway. Upon closer examination, she realized that these marks were in fact outlines of figures and buildings. Through careful research of SFAI’s archives, Holland identified at least six of these “lost” frescoes throughout the building, with the positive identification of one of them—a delicate painting by Frederick Olmsted, Jr., titled Marble Workers (1935).

Marble Workers and a second fresco, known as Lost Fresco #6 until conservation efforts can identify the painter, are the subjects of the mural restoration and access plan made possible in part by the Save America’s Treasures grant, funded by the National Park Service, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities.