Pershing Auditorium mural saved, slowly but surely coming down

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) — The effort to save Pershing’s Lincoln mural has reached a milestone. Organizers have raised enough money to pay for the safe removal and storage of the mural, and this process is no small feat.

A total of 753,000 square inch tiles will have to go down. The effort to save the mural was successful, but its future resting place remains uncertain.

The mural has been an impressive and intricate display above the Centennial Mall for 65 years. It describes events that were once held in the now closed auditorium, such as sporting events, circuses, and rodeos.

With the demolition of the building slated for this fall, this mural is carefully falling apart.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to about the mural is so happy it looks like it’s going to be saved,” said Roger Lempke, one of the organizers.

The mural was saved thanks to a major fundraising campaign that began earlier this year. In total, the group has raised $844,000 for the first phase which will pay to remove, transport and store the mural for the time being.

“The first thing we had to do was figure out if they could actually remove those tiles or not and they did a test and determined there was a way to remove them,” Lempke said. “The next was to raise funds to do it. In a real intensive effort that started around February of this year, the money was raised at the end of May.

This removal process is tedious, to say the least. Crews carefully scrape the tiles and reattach them to a material similar to contact paper in sections. 250 sections must go down.

“And then they put a sheet of plywood against it, glued it, and then they peeled it off, so you end up with these four by eight sheets of plywood with the little pieces on it,” Lempke said.

Everything will be stored until a permanent home is found. Lempke said they were in talks with a few entities about a new home. Ideally, the group hopes it would be displayed closer to eye level so people can see the finer details.

“We want to keep it in the city of Lincoln. We want to put it in a high traffic area so people can see it. It will be at eye level so you can really see it and admire it, so we want to make sure we have that and with that in mind we are working with city parks to discuss placement with them,” said Lempke.

They will need to raise around $2 million more to restore, repair and for future maintenance. Once the move is complete, the Nebraska State Historical Society will house it until this new home is found.

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