Preservation Underway for Priceless Historic Mural in Bates Mansion

June 19, 2013


A piece by Corona inside the courtyard above the main entry gate.

A priceless work of art in the historic Bates Mansion is getting a second chance thanks to the efforts of Seth Schindler, PhD, of Prudent Preservation Partners. The massive mural, measuring nearly 70 feet long by 12 feet high, will be restored this summer. Artfire.com is launching a new artisan Maker Space in the Bates Mansion in September where artisans, crafters and techies will enjoy working and collaborating in the shadow of this historic artwork.

The mural was one of several commissioned by C.T.R. Bates in the historic home during renovation in 1964, and is one of only 3 known properties in Arizona where such publicly available large format Corona works are available. According to Dr. Diane Dittemore, who curated the Arizona State Museum’s 2010 Corona exhibition, “This mural is arguably one of the finest extant examples of Corona’s mature artistic style.”

Salvador Corona (1885-1990) was born into a wealthy and politically prominent family in Chihuahua, Mexico. The family Hacienda raised bulls for fighting, and this inspired Corona to enter the bullring as a bullfighter. His bull fighting career ended with a severe injury in 1919, and with the urging of a friend, he picked up a paintbrush.


Seth Schindler along with the architect for the project, Bob Vint, and Fine Arts Conservator Charlie Burton finalizing plans for this work

Corona’s painting career spanned many decades and diverse formats including murals, furniture and decorative household items. In 1939, the Mexican government invited him to take a set of painted furniture to the World’s Fair in New York City. There, it was presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a gift. Corona’s work attracted many famous patrons, including the Duchess of Windsor and writer Clare Booth Luce.

Corona’s work featured many Spanish Colonial vignettes, and he became an authority on Spanish and French costumes of the 1800’s, which are frequently depicted in his paintings. His favorite subjects often included Mexican Colonial criollos and Purepecha (Tarascan) Indians. Birds and other animals feature prominently in his work. All these elements are found in the Bates Mansion mural.

The Bates Mansion, located on the edge of the Historic El Presidio Neighborhood and the Warehouse Arts District in downtown, is a distinctive landmark in Tucson. Its vintage facade and high walled courtyard are the first architectural elements to greet travelers entering downtown via the Stone Avenue underpass. Yet the interior has been long hidden from the public eye, first as the private residence of C.T.R. Bates and then as the home of the Mountain Oyster Club.

The Bates Mansion features many architectural, artistic and historic elements unique to Tucson, including carved mesquite columns, marble hearths, saltillo tile and 200 year old mesquite flooring. There are multiple Salvador Corona murals inside and outside in the space. In 1976 the Bates Mansion was recognized as a contributing property to the El Presidio neighborhood’s entry on the national historic registry.

Another piece by Corona, this one by the Stone Ave. entrance.

Another piece by Corona, this one by the Stone Ave. entrance.

Prudent Preservation Partners began restoration work on the Bates in November 2009 and has continued to improve the property and seek the right partner tenant. ArtFire.com, a premier online artisan marketplace, met Dr. Schindler in early 2013, and will launch the nation’s first artisan-driven maker space, called Maker House, in the Bates Mansion in September of 2013. ArtFire will be supporting continued renovation. “We’re excited to be a part of this historic space, support the continued renovation and to welcome creatives, artisans, and the public to work in the Corona Room with this historic work,” says Tony Ford, COO of ArtFire. “Dr. Schindler’s work to recognize and fund the restoration of this hidden Tucson treasure will benefit thousands of participants as they create and collaborate at Maker House.”

Maker House will offer collaborative and creative space, classes, education and performance for multidisciplinary artists, tech lovers and the general public. It will feature an artisan coffee bar, music and meeting space for local arts and business groups.

“Prudent Preservation Partners welcomes Art Fire aboard, while recognizing what a fine match Maker House is for the Bates Mansion and its other anchor tenant, the prestigious non-profit research and educational institute, Archaeology Southwest.” said Schindler, “Their strong public focus, their sensitivity to both the Bates Mansion’s and the Corona mural’s historic and aesthetic importance, not to say the creativity of their business plan and renovation efforts, will help us fulfill our mission of preserving one of Tucson’s iconic properties.”

Restoration work on the main Corona mural will begin in June. Leading supporters of the restoration project include $20,000 in support from the Southwestern Foundation, $5,000 from the Degrazia Foundation and approximately $1,500 in donations from numerous private donors. Archaeology Southwest, the other major tenant at the Bates Mansion, as well as Dr. Schindler’s partner in Prudent Preservation Partners, is the sponsor of the Salvador Corona Mural Conservation Project. They have secured two highly regarded experts in the field to restore the Mural. Architect Bob Vint and painting conservator Charlie Burton will work under the supervision of William Doele, PH.D., President and CEO of Archeology Southwest and Dr. Schindler.

Restoration will address the deteriorating adobe wall on which the mural is painted. This will include stopping the source of the damage, repairing and stabilizing the wall, and then restoring and preserving the painting. Restoration is expected to be completed just before the Maker House grand opening in mid-September.