By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
The University of Chicago will remove a mural located on the west stairwell in the School of Social Service Administration (SSA), 969 E. 60th St., painted in 1984 by local muralist and Hyde Park resident, Astrid Fuller.
According to a statement from the U. of C., the mural will be removed because:
“This year marks the centenary of the Bauhaus, the most influential design movement of the twentieth century. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a director of the Bauhaus and also the architect of the (SSA) building. SSA is the only Bauhaus building on the University of Chicago campus, and one of only 15 buildings by Mies in Chicago. The Bauhaus centenary will be marked by scholarly activities around the world, and SSA, as well as the broader University and city, will be highlighted. One of the central tenets of the Bauhaus is that artistic ornament should never be applied over any surface. To prepare for the centenary, SSA will be removing a mural painted by SSA alumna Astrid Fuller.”
Upon receiving the news, Fuller said: “I’m sad, of course, that is going to go down, but I understand it.”
Fuller graduated from SSA in 1961 and practiced as a social worker until 1966 when she left the profession to raise her children. She started mural painting with the help of Caryl Yasko, who painted the 55th Street mural, and Bill Walker who headed the Chicago mural group at the time.
The self-taught painter created the mural over 30 years ago to celebrate SSA’s history. She was commissioned by the Laurence E. Lynn, who was the dean of SSA at the time after he saw her mural at the underpass at 57th Steet that celebrated the pioneers of social workers.
The mural is divided into several sections to represent the various stages of SSA.
“There is a woman in a dress of the early 1900s because the beginning of the history of philanthropy was the way that social work was built,” Fuller said. “The social work pioneers of SSA wanted it to be public policy and they strived towards that and wanted research to be a major component of the education as well. So, I have a student researching the immigration experience and the experience of the depression. The SSA professors were consulted by Washington about social policy, so I put in the painting of Congress.
“Then, I traced the history of SSA through war and peace and through the different movements in the 60s. There were many student uprisings about equality, civil rights, and the disability act. Last, I have a social caseworker treating the mother with her child. The students began wanting to provide services to their clients.”
U. of C. said that they could not physically preserve the painting and transfer it to another material because it was painted directly onto the bricks. The mural has been photographed by Michael Tropea, who is a photographer that has done work at the Smart Museum. The photographs will be included in the university’s archives.
Fuller hopes that when people find the image in the archives that they understand the remarkable history of SSA and how it changed social work education. “I was both a student and an artist at SSA,” she said. “I combined my two interests in that mural. ”
No date has been announced for when the mural will be removed.