May 2013 Coit Tower News


  COIT TOWER NEWS – May 2013
The specific details of the badly-needed and long-delayed series of repairs and restoration work at Coit Tower have been formally approved to proceed by the San Francisco Planning Department.  Last month, the Planning Department issued an official “Certificate of Appropriateness” for the Coit Tower Rehabilitation Project after reviewing a detailed list of specifications outlining the parameters of the restoration work.  
The Coit Tower Rehabilitation Project will include extensive repairs of cracks in the exterior concrete walls, marble restoration, window and door restoration, stucco cleaning and repair, graffiti removal, lead paint removal, and new painting.  Extensive preservation measures will be put in place to protect the historic features and fixtures inside Coit Tower, with special precautions taken to ensure that the frescos and mural artworks inside Coit Tower are fully protected from risk of damage. 
The work for the Coit Tower Rehabilitation Project is being put out to bid now, with the project scheduled to start in October.  The Arts Commission is planning to engage in extensive mural restoration and conservation immediately following the building repairs.
“Let’s Get Lost,” the KQED app for mobile phones that launched earlier this year, has added some exciting new features to its Coit Tower murals tour including one that shines an illuminating spotlight on Coit Tower painter Maxine Albro. 
The KQED “Let’s Get Lost” project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and produced in partnership with California’s Living New Deal Project and the California Historical Society.  The Let’s Get Lost app – which can be downloaded here – provides video and audio for mobile phone tours of three key New Deal art sites in San Francisco:  Rincon Annex, The Pan American Unity Mural at City College, and the Coit Tower mural collection.  The tours provide insight into the artists and put the painting of these New Deal murals in the context of the dynamic times in which they were created.
The KQED Coit Tower murals tour includes an “Explore” option and a new “Hunt” option. 
By tapping “Explore,” a visitor can use a floor plan of Coit Tower to walk around and tap on hotspots to learn more about many of the murals. 
The new “Hunt” option provides the user with 6 images of details taken from different Coit Tower murals.  The user is supposed to walk around inside Coit Tower, looking carefully at each of the murals to find the 6 details.  Once any of them is found, the user takes a photo of the detail that, if recognized, will unlock and play a special video with “hidden secrets” about the mural and the artist who created it.
One of the “Hidden Mural Secrets” images is a detail inside the Maxine Albro mural “California Agriculture” of a woman in a fine Sunday dress holding a lovely batch of Cala Lilies in her arms.  The text of the video that plays once unlocked is as follows:
"Who is this woman with the pretty necklace?  Some believe she's a secret homage to the master himself - Diego Rivera.  The Cala Lilies are the key.  Look at your screen.  Rivera painted them over and over to symbolize Mexico's beauty.  Maxine Albro admired Rivera deeply.  She traveled to Mexico to watch him work and learned the art of fresco painting from one of his assistants.
At the time she was painting this scene, Rivera was embroiled in a huge controversy over communist images in a mural he painted for New York's Rockefeller Center.  Look at your screen.  That's the mural.  Do you see Vladimir Lenin?  Rivera refused to remove him, and the mural was destroyed.   Maxine Albro and her fellow artists were outraged.  They staged a noisy protest outside Coit Tower.  That's her in the overalls.
Perhaps she included this woman in the mural as another way of showing her support."
While better experienced while visiting Coit Tower, you can watch the KQED clip about Maxine Albro, her Coit Tower mural, and their connection to Diego Rivera on YouTube at the following link:

If you would like to know more about Maxine Albro and her experiences and observations painting Coit Tower, you can read a fascinating oral history interview with her and her husband Parker Hall – also a Coit Tower painter – in the Archives of American Art, available online here:




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