Burroughs mural survives after all

Art preservationists, working tile by tile, took down about a quarter of the Burroughs Community School Mural last week. Melissa Winters, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Public Schools, said that a contract with Museum Services Inc., was approved on June 14, and work started June 17. Burroughs Community School building, 1501 W. 50th St, is structurally unsound and will be torn down in order to build a new facility that is scheduled to open in 2003.

Although in early June school principal Tim Cadotte said demolition was a virtual certainty, Winters said, "I don't believe we ever had the perspective that the mural was for sure going to be torn down. We just hit a snag when we found that it was going to be much more expensive than we thought."

The mural's artist, Aldo Moroni, came to the work's rescue when he passed the name of the art-restoration company to Cadotte. Winters said the contract for the de-installation was within the district's $10,000 budget.

The actual tile-removal will be done with a very small saw, said Russell Belk of Museum Services, the art-restoration contractor. "We're following the grout lines with a small saw and then sliding a very thin putty knife under each tile," he said.

Last week, two restorationists worked in the empty school's dusty hallways, sawing and slowly detaching tiles. Belk thinks they will lose about 10 percent of the tiles, mostly during the de-installation's first stages. "It's a painstaking process. It's hard work that takes time to do," he said.

Museum Services workers are placing the tiles in storage according to their placement on the wall, so the mural can be reconstructed in the same place as before. Lost tiles can be replaced by the hundreds of additional tiles the school has in storage.

Belk estimates that the de-installation will finish in mid-July. Workers will have to leave the building onFriday June 21 for several weeks while an asbestos-removal team works on the building. No contract has been written for the mural's reconstruction, and the school has not decided where to place the reconstructed mural in the new building.