Pershing Auditorium mural saved, coming down slowly but surely

The effort to save the Pershing mural in Lincoln has reached a milestone.
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:55 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The effort to save the Pershing mural in Lincoln has reached a milestone. Organizers have raised enough money to pay for the mural’s safe removal and storage, and that process is no small feat.

In total, 763,000 square-inch tiles will have to come down. The effort to save the mural has been successful but its future home remains unclear.

The mural has been an impressive and intricate display above Centennial Mall for 65 years. It depicts events that were once hosted at the now-closed auditorium like sporting events, circuses, and rodeos.

With the building’s demolition set for this fall, that mural is coming down carefully in pieces.

“Everybody that I talked to about the mural is so happy that 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 effort that started earlier this year. In total, the group raised $844,000 for the first phase which will pay to remove, transport, and store the mural for now.

“The first thing we had to do was determine if they could actually get those tiles off or not and they did a test and determined yeah there’s a way to pull them off,” Lempke said. “The next was to raise the money to get it done. In a real intensive effort starting in about February of this year got the money raised by the end of May.”

That removal process is tedious, to say the least. Crews are carefully scraping off tiles and reattaching them to a material similar to contact paper in sections. 250 sections need to come down.

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

It’ll all be stored until a permanent home can be found. Lempke said they are 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 fine details.

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

They’ll need to raise about $2 million more to restore, repair, and for future maintenance. After the removal is complete the Nebraska State Historical Society will house it until that new home is found.

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