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Rescue Public Murals

Rescue Public Murals launched in December of 2006 with the goal of raising public awareness of the rich history of murals throughout the United States, documenting their condition and artistic and historic significance, and advising on and funding their preservation and conservation. RPM was under the umbrella of Heritage Preservation with contributions from the Getty Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Booth Heritage Foundation, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. When Heritage Preservation dissolved in 2015, RPM was discontinued, but you can read more about its impact and programs below and on AIC's website

Essay by Monica Conary, Museum Studies Student, Rochester Institute of Technology


The advocacy and action group, Rescue Public Murals (RPM), was established in the mid-2000s with the goal of raising public awareness about the poor condition of public murals while documenting their artistic features and historic value. RPM sought to both inform the public about the condition, care, and needs of murals and identify murals that could be preserved. RPM offered recommendations on the arrangements and steps which needed to be taken to save these works of public art. The effort which was an initiative of the national nonprofit organization Heritage Preservation enabled artists, conservators, and interested parties to come together to work on public preservation projects.

RPM focused on five primary activities: assessment, restoration, best practices for mural creation, advocacy, and documentation. Through research, practice, and advocacy, RPM also sought to change the negative image that the public had of murals that had been left unpreserved.

The Rescue Public Murals initiative stemmed from “Modern Paints,” a 2002-2003 collaborative effort between the Getty Conservative Institute, the National Gallery of Art, and Tate Modern. Launched officially in December 2006 and put under the helm of Heritage Preservation, which had had success with a similar initiative, Save Outdoor Sculpture! RPM launched a pilot phase before  going on to develop and disseminate best practices for mural painting , conduct assessments of murals, and  advocate for treatment of endangered murals.

RPM saw as its mission to “bring public attention to U.S. murals, document their unique artistic and historic contributions, and secure the expertise and support to save them." The first stage of work drew attention to murals from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s which were in a deteriorated state due to age, environmental factors, and neglect. They bore only a slim resemblance to their original splendor and, as a result, their content and symbolism were obscured...

Read more in Will Shank's essay on his experiences with Heritage Preservation

"[T]he hard working support staff of Heritage Preservation carefully and patiently molded our ideas into an organization that had a direction, a lot of energy, the capacity to attract serious funding...and the ability to legitimize the efforts of the often-overlooked work of America’s community muralists, both great and small. We are particularly proud of having developed a model for surveying and treating community murals that includes those living and working with them on a daily basis. We are very proud of what we accomplished in a few short years, and we hope that our example shines for others facing similar preservation challenges."


Will Shank, founding member of RPM

Additional Resources

Rescue Public Murals and
Conservator-Artist Collaborations

Kristen Laise and Leslie Rainer
AIC Paintings Specialty Group Postprints 21, 2009

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