A community-made mural that had been painted on the southernmost outside wall of the Capitol II Theatre nearly six years ago was removed unbeknownst to the owner of the historic Newton movie theater.
Dawn Bleeker, owner of the Capitol II Theatre, found out Saturday afternoon but was unsure exactly when the painting was removed. She also had not been notified of the developer’s plans to remove the mural in conjunction with the ongoing renovations of the former Hotel Maytag building, now known as Hotel Maytag Apartments & Event Center.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Bleeker said Sunday. “I was so upset I actually broke down in tears. I cried most of the day … I didn’t realize how important that was for me until it was gone. I think what upsets me so much about it is not being told or even talked to about it, and it meant so much to the community.”
The Newton Daily News inspected the site Monday morning and noticed the mural had been entirely erased from the brickwork. A flaked coat of white paint is all that remains.
Bleeker is a tenant of the building and has operated the movie theater since 2012. Jack Hatch, developer of the Hotel Maytag renovation project, said the mural “fell outside” the specific time periods allowed for the rehabilitation work, which was sometime between the early 1920s to the early 1960s.
“My mistake was that I didn’t tell Dawn about it. She was caught off guard,” Hatch said. “I thought it was general knowledge what was going to happen. I’ll take responsibility for not bringing that to the table for discussion. It was one of those things that I thought for sure that there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for us to keep it.”
The mural once depicted colorful, anthropomorphic cartoons of popcorn containers, a soda cup, a box of candy holding a flag of the Newton cardinal, another holding a baton and an image of the movie theater’s porky mascot, Joy MiniPig, dressed in a pink outfit. The piece was strongly reminiscent of the 1950s animated advertisement “Let’s All Go to the Lobby.”
According to the Capitol II Theatre’s Facebook post addressing the mural’s removal, the project was coordinated by employees of the former Newton Manufacturing Company. Bleeker said students of the Newton Community School District and other members of the community contributed to the art piece as a part of Red Pride Service Day.
“They asked what would I think if I had a mural on the wall — and they had gotten permission from the landlord — and I said I would love it,” Bleeker recalled. “I thought that was great. It was a surprise to us. It wasn’t our idea. It was the community coming to us.”
Bleeker described the piece as a “community mural.” She said people “got a lot of enjoyment out of it.” One week ago, someone had asked Bleeker permission to use the mural as a backdrop for senior photos, which she said is a common practice.
Although the mural was removed, Bleeker said she hopes it can possibly be replaced or repainted in the future.
“People are offering, people are saying they’ll volunteer their time,” Bleeker said. “People want it back.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org