Historic murals restored at Victory Theatre in Holyoke

Former state senator Ben Downing takes a tour of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke with MIFA Victory Theatre Executive Artistic Director Don Sanders on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

Former state senator Ben Downing takes a tour of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke with MIFA Victory Theatre Executive Artistic Director Don Sanders on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

The upper level of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke seats half of its 1,600-seat capacity. Photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

The upper level of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke seats half of its 1,600-seat capacity. Photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

The lower level of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke seats half of its 1,600-seat capacity. Photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

The lower level of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke seats half of its 1,600-seat capacity. Photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

A section of a mural restored at Victory Theatre in Holyoke.

A section of a mural restored at Victory Theatre in Holyoke. MASSACHUSETTS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS/EVERGREENE ARCHITECTURAL ARTS

A section of murals restored at Victory Theatre in Holyoke. 

A section of murals restored at Victory Theatre in Holyoke.  MASSACHUSETTS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS/EVERGREENE ARCHITECTURAL ARTS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-19-2024 3:17 PM

HOLYOKE — A $400,000 restoration of two 23-foot-tall murals at the Broadway-style Victory Theatre, created by Italian immigrant Vincent Maragliotti in 1942, is complete, another step in the process toward reopening the 1920 building that has been closed for the past 45 years.

The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts Victory Theatre, which in 2009 acquired the rundown 81-89 Suffolk St. site, announced this week that the restoration work by EverGreene Architectural Arts of Brooklyn, New York was finished on April 8.

MIFA Executive Artistic Director Donald T. Sanders said Friday that the project to bring the historic theater back to life is full-steam ahead, with bid documents to be ready in September and a reopening possible in June 2026, which would come following an 18- to 24-month refurbishing of the 45,000-square-foot theater and building a new 14,000-square-foot annex in a neighboring vacant lot.

“What’s necessary to start the work has been completed, we’re doing it as we can and making the plan work,” Sanders said. “I feel that we’re really in that phase now.”

Those passing by will begin seeing visible signs of progress, with fences going up around the perimeter and equipment on site, such as a lift in the vacant lot.

MIFA Victory Theatre’s hope is to eventually reopen the 1,600-seat theater as an anchor for Holyoke’s arts and theater district, increasing tourism to the city and providing access to arts education for the community. The redevelopment project is estimated at around $61 million, with Mayor Joshua Garcia in December 2022 committing $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act money toward the renovation.

Taken down in 2010, the murals were turned over to EverGreene for restoration, largely supported by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors and funding from the city’s Community Preservation Act account.

A team from EverGreene, which in 2018 began a microscopic analysis of the building’s interior finishes, is bringing the murals back to the city, keeping them in protective storage until they are reinstalled. A future public exhibition of the completed murals is anticipated, Sanders said.

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Sanders adds that the restoration is a wonderful achievement for MIFA and Holyoke, praising the partnership with Holyoke’s CPA Committee, including its chairpersons, Kip Goley and Meagan Magrath-Smith, City Councilor Michael J. Sullivan, the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, the Beveridge Foundation, Friends of MIFA Victory Theatre and various donors, including Holyoke residents.

“A significant piece of the city’s history has been preserved for future generations,” Sanders said.

The murals, titled “War” and “Victory,” were created and installed after a damaging fire at the Victory Theatre in 1942, and Maragliotti’s work was funded by the federal Works Progress Administration. One mural is inspired by the Biblical story of Lucifer cast out of Heaven, while the other shows man breaking his bonds, being made free by the spirit of Justice, and Lucifer being banished into oblivion.

Recently, MIFA completed a yearlong exhibition in which a portion of one of the restored murals, the lunette or archway section from the right mural, was displayed at Wistariahurst Museum for Holyoke’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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