Historic Mural Restored to New Life in Dane County Regional Airport

March 09, 2006
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 661-6485; (608) 575-6338

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today unveiled an historic 1936 airport mural that was painstakingly restored and is now hanging in the new “Greeters Lounge” located in the main public area of the newly renovated, prairie-style design Dane County Regional Airport. “Today, a unique part of Dane County’s history is returned to its rightful place,” said Falk. “For years to come, both residents and visitors will appreciate both the art itself and the time in our history that it represents.” The airport mural, painted by Wisconsin artist Cal N. Peters in 1936, was commissioned by the federal government as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression era relief effort, called the New Deal, to stimulate all aspects of the economy, including the arts. It depicts the airport not as it was, but as it was projected to be developed. It is an aerial representation of the airport from the Truax Field side and shows old Hwy. 51, busy with traffic. The Art Deco terminal in the center and six hangars in the foreground show an optimistic view of what was supposed to be built. Passengers, with their luggage, wait to board a modern two-engine plane. Security guards in yellow are posted in the center right. The style of the vehicles and airplanes are true to the period. In the distance are the lakes that surround Madison, and farm fields. Peters was paid $436 for painting the mural. After the mural was taken off public display, it was stored in a hangar at the airport, and all but forgotten. It sustained damage, had many small holes and layers of dirt and grime. In 2005, members of the Dane County Regional Airport Commission, chaired by Madison attorney Bill White, raised private funds to restore the mural. Conservation took nearly five months, under the direction of Tony Rajer, art conservator, with help from UW-Madison students, local artists and community members. “Restoring the mural was a labor of love,” said White. “Thanks to those who supported the restoration, the mural is back where it belongs.” Private funds, donated by Madison Gas and Electric Foundation, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, and Vandewalle & Associates paid for the restoration. Their gift now goes to the Personnel and Finance Committee of the Dane County Board for acceptance. # # #