Museum's first Kickstarter gives members and fans a chance to support Franz Kline mural


December 28, 2016


                         Museum’s first Kickstarter campaign gives art fans chance to show their support

Allentown, PA—The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley has launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign to give members and friends the opportunity to support the restoration of Franz Kline’s mural Lehighton. A video detailing the mural’s backstory can be viewed at (search for “Kline mural”) or accessed via the Museum’s website at Pledges of support will be accepted from now through January 22, with Kline-themed rewards such as magnets and mugs being delivered to donors if the campaign is successful.

The Kline-mural project began in October 2016, when the Museum purchased the oil painting by the famed Abstract Expressionist artist from American Legion Post 314, located just 25 miles north of the Museum, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Kline painted the stylized landscape and cityscape mural of his boyhood hometown, Lehighton, in 1946, during trips back from New York City to visit his mother. The work was painted on a single piece of canvas measuring approximately 6 feet high and 14 feet wide and affixed with rabbit-skin glue to the plaster wall over the banquet-hall bar. There it was admired by Legion members for seven decades, enduring cigarette smoke and occasional touch-ups. The mural was renowned in the area but practically hidden from view from a larger audience.

“Over the years, it was starting to deteriorate,” said Carlos Teets, a trustee of American Legion Post 314. “We knew we had to do something.” Legion officials worked out an agreement with the Allentown Art Museum partly because of its close proximity. “They’re local, and more people will see it.”

To oversee the preservation process, the Museum hired one of the foremost conservators of American murals, New York City-based Luca Bonetti. “Our role is to ensure that any work of art that comes into our hands is treated in such a way that it can continue to live through the years and centuries,” said Bonetti. After a few days of prep work, Bonetti and his team of two assistants carefully removed the mural from the wall on November 2, rolling it onto a cardboard tube. The mural was then transported by van to Allentown's Creativity Lab, a satellite space of the Museum on Hamilton Street provided by partner City Center Lehigh Valley. Over the course of several days Bonetti and his team removed loose bits of plaster, repaired a rip and several holes in the canvas, and rerolled the mural to be stored in the Museum's vault in preparation for the next step. 

The final phase of conservation will begin after the Kickstarter campaign ends. Bonetti and his team will return to Allentown on January 24, 2017, to remove the protective facing from the front of the mural and clean it, inch by inch, by hand. The cleaning process will occur in the Museum’s Trexler Gallery, its permanent home.

The cleaning process will be open to the public to view on January 25 and 26 from 11 a.m. till 4 p.m. (call the Museum to confirm: 610-432-4333 ext 110).

The fully conserved mural will be unveiled to the public on Sunday, January 29, from noon till 4 p.m., with free admission and an afternoon of free activities:

1 p.m.
Robert Mattison, professor of fine arts at Lafayette College, will present a slideshow on the history and significance of Franz Kline’s Lehighton mural, and art conservator Luca Bonetti will provide details of its conservation.

2 p.m.
Lehighton historian Ronald Rabenold will stand near the mural to answer visitor questions about landmarks and town features depicted in the mural.


Other activities related to the mural:
• A 4-minute (approx.) video that documents the conservation process will flank the mural and also will be posted online. The video will include the names of individuals and businesses that supported the Kline Kisckstarter in a significant way along with comments about the mural's impact on the coal-region town of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, as told by town historians, residents, and Legion members
• A gallery guide about Franz Kline and the mural will be available free to Museum visitors.
• The Museum will aid in the creation, publishing, and distribution of curricula guides on the mural to Lehighton-region schools, to ensure that the mural continues to have educational significance for generations to come.
• The Museum will be printing and installing a vinyl reproduction of the mural, full size and in full color, in the Lehighton American Legion to replace Kline's original, in January.

Franz Kline (1910-1962), Lehighton mural, 1946, oil on canvas, 73 x 166 inches. Allentown Art Museum, 2016. Photograph by Joshua Finsel © The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

For press photos of the mural contact
Chris Potashcpotash [at] allentownartmuseum [dot] org (:cpotash [at] allentownartmuseum [dot] org)