Mosaic Removal Approved; Where Should They Go?

The people working to preserve two tile mosaic murals that were whitewashed at the former Searstown have gotten permission to move them. Now they’re asking for input on two possible locations: the Polk Museum of Art or the Polk Tax Collector’s Office.

The board of National Properties Trust Inc., which owns the shopping center now known as Town Center, approved the request to move the murals Friday, according to Natalie Oldenkamp, who spearheaded the effort to restore the murals after they were painted over.

“The plaza board just wants something in writing stating what technique we will use to remove them, and that we will repair the walls,” she said.

Businessman Gregory Fancelli, who is funding the move, said he’d like to explore a removal technique called strappo, which was developed in Italy to remove frescoes painted on plaster.

The mosaics, each 10 feet by 24 feet, were commissioned in 1964 by Fancelli’s grandfather, George Jenkins, to be placed on either side of the entrance of what was then a new Publix store at Searstown.

Two locations being considered to house the murals have Publix ties: the Polk Tax Collector’s Office on Massachusetts Avenue, an art deco building built as a Publix store, and the Polk Museum of Art, which had its origins in a former Publix store on its Palmetto Street property.

Oldenkamp has gotten dozens of replies on a Facebook post asking for input on the new location. By early Saturday afternoon, the Polk Museum option seemed most popular, but several people suggested locating one mural at each site and others recommended the Southgate Publix.