Back when I worked at the Downtown Campus of Florida State College (FSCJ), I noticed two murals hanging in the downstairs Lobby. My discovery came sometime in 2001, right after being hired. These were no ordinary murals. I was amazed to see that each was signed by Lee Adams, the famed environmentalist and artist who made Jacksonville his home for many years.
I haven’t thought about those Lee Adams murals for many a year. But recent articles in local publications have brought them to mind, along with my informal “investigation” of the murals while employed at the College.
The Financial News & Daily Record ran an article on April 16, 2012, titled “The sesquiquadricentennial connection,” which highlighted the restoration of another Lee Adams mural. Not surprisingly, this mural’s original home was the old Sears building, which was razed in 1981. The facts attached to this mural were consistent with my own fact-finding. The major difference: the two Lee Adams murals I’d discovered have since “disappeared” from the College’s Downtown Campus.
THE MYSTERIOUS MURALS
These murals did not resemble the Lee Adams work that I associate with the artist. I have a print of one of his bird series, and think of him as a nature artist using soft tones. These murals were plainly commissioned work, using garish tones and primary colors. I recall that one depicted a horn of plenty. Honestly, I do not recall the image of the second mural, likely because it was so dissimilar from a Lee Adams nature scene. But the two were a matching set and the motif was bounteous food.
MY INFORMAL INVESTIGATION
I was excited when I first noticed the two murals and talked about them to various folk at the campus. No one recognized the name “Lee Adams” and no one seemed to share my enthusiasm for these pieces of art. However, I got some tips. Someone said I should speak with Duane Dumbleton, the former president of Downtown Campus, who was then presiding over Kent Campus. |Mr. Dumbleton has since passed.|
Mr. Dumbleton actually returned my phone call and did his best to provide details about the two murals. He referred me to Anne Banas, who formally ran the Art department at Downtown Campus. Ms. Banas was also helpful and between the two, I was able to trace the origin of the murals to the Sears building, and understood that they were donated to the College. I also learned that during one renovation of the campus lobby, the murals were put in a storage building with little to no protection until rescued and placed on the walls of the lobby.
I took it upon myself to further my investigation by visiting the Finance department, housed in the Martin Center. I met with an accounting staff person who graciously searched the inventory database of the College. We looked for “art”, “murals”, “Lee Adams” and other related keywords. But there was nothing in that database to indicate the College owned or had possession of these two valuable Lee Adams murals.
THE DISAPPEARING MURALS
When I retired from the College in November 2010, the two murals had already disappeared from the walls of the Downtown Campus lobby.
I imagine that during the more recent renovation of the campus, they were once again “put in storage,” and remain in some unknown location. Based on my previous searching results, it does not appear that they are officially a College possession, as they did not appear in that College-wide inventory database.
So, these relics of Jacksonville’s artistic past have never been formally recognized and inventoried, and their status today remains a mystery. This is a sad but true story.
I am hoping that an individual, agency, museum or media outlet in Jacksonville will follow-up on the disappeared murals and restore the two pieces of our local art history. They are obviously not secure or valued at FSCJ.