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Senate mural will be saved, but removed from Capitol

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It’s official: The nearly 40-year-old mural outside the Florida Senate chambers will be taken down.

In a letter, Senate President Andy Gardiner said the mural will be preserved, however, for viewing elsewhere. It’ll be stored till then.

The letter was sent last Tuesday to Jeff Howell, the Republican Party of Florida treasurer. Howell, a Tallahassee attorney, leads an informal volunteer campaign to save the artwork.

The 10-foot-by-16 foot “Five Flags Mural” greeted visitors to the Senate’s 5th floor viewing galleries. The mural’s removal comes as the chamber is undergoing an almost-$5 million renovation, the first since the Capitol opened in 1978.

The work also happens to depict a Confederate general and flag. The Senate previously voted to remove that symbol from its official seal and insignia.

The name of the mural refers to the five flags that have flown over the state: U.S., Confederate, Spanish, French, and British.

Gardiner told Howell the painting is “beginning to show signs of age that must be addressed if the mural is to be preserved.” Specifically, parts of the works are fading and peeling.

The current contractor will “remove the mural and wall and to relocate these pieces to the Senate archives maintained by the Historic Capitol,” Gardiner said.

“Once removed, the Senate may elect to turn over ownership of the mural to a private entity for preservation,” but that would have to be paid for with private funds, he added.

The Senate got two estimates, one at $60,000, the other for $21,000-25,000.

Howell was in a trial and unavailable for comment. A phone number for the mural’s artist, Renee Faure of Jacksonville, was disconnected as of Monday.

Faure previously said she found it “quite hard to believe that this defacement of artwork is being considered,” referring to its removal.

Her daughter, Dreanna Bane, told FloridaPolitics.com that Faure had spent months, first in preparation and then in painting, on the work: “She had to do a lot of research” on all the historical figures depicted, Bane said. “It was a labor of love.”

Renovations are planned to be done by the Reorganization Session held after every election.

The new look includes a new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol. Among those is a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum with the words “In God We Trust.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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