Winona has to decide what history to sell

The Winona Fine Arts Commission is in a tough spot. It’s got 100 historical works of art, and it has to decide which 90 it’ll have to sell off. It can only afford to save 10.

They are theater backdrops, once stored high in the rafters above the stage in the historic Masonic theater, ready to be dropped for whatever scene is called for in the show below. They harken back to the early 1900s, when even the smallest towns built theaters for opera.

Scenic painting is a dying art and much of the history is near death. The condition of the backdrops has deteriorated because of a leaky roof, and there isn’t money to fix and hang them all.

So the Fine Arts Commission is asking for help to decide which 10 will be saved, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports today.

The drops are one of the reasons the southeastern Minnesota theater is on the National Register of Historic Places. The city is trying to restore the theater to its previous glory, but a new rigging system can only hang so many backdrops, which run the gamut, from heaven…

Winona Fine Arts Commission.

… to hell…

Winona Fine Arts Commission.

… and all the burning bushes in between.

Winona Fine Arts Commission.

“Once the 10 are chosen, we’d consider having a public auction for the others,” Lee Gundersheimer, arts and culture coordinator for Winona, tells the paper.

The full catalog of drops is posted here. The Commission is asking for people to help decide which 10 to save.