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FOREST CITY - Ron Campbell has visited more than 300 post offices across the country to look at government commissioned murals.

Forest City's mural, "Evening on the Farm," painted by Orr C. Fisher ranks as one of the best he has ever seen.

"This is right at the top," Campbell said. "The color and activity is better than pictures can capture."

The government and psychology teacher from Chippewa Valley High School near Detroit, Michigan, traveled to Forest City last week for the sole purpose of looking at the mural. 

It depicts a colorful farm setting complete with livestock, a barn, windmill, a farm family and tractors.

"None of the murals are as active and as colorful as this one," Campbell said. "It shows what life was like on the farm."

Murals like the one in Forest City were commissioned as part of a program designed to put America back to work during the Great Depression. 

"As they were building new post offices, a portion of the building fund was used for murals," Campbell said.

Forest City's mural was dedicated in 1942. Campbell said the artist would submit sketches to be approved by a government official in Washington, D.C.

"They were paid half up front and half when they were finished," he said. "The artist would receive anywhere between $600 to $900."

Fisher was paid $750 for painting the Forest City mural.

According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fisher was born in Delphos in 1885. He also painted a mural at the Mount Ayr post office titled "Corn on Parade."

The Forest City mural is an oil painting on linen canvas and measures 13 feet wide by five feet two inches in height.

A story in the May 28, 1942 Summit said, Fisher worked all winter on the mural. 

"Mr. Fisher states the mural is all drawn from imagination, that nothing is copied, and the scene was drawn to resemble the country around Forest City," the article said. 

The story goes on to say that Fisher has painted landscape and easel pictures the past 30 years. He was mainly a self taught artist and many of his paintings were of the Rocky Mountains.

A Summit column written by local historian Riley Lewis published as part of the Heritage Series said the mural stayed in its original condition until 1969 when vandals threw eggs on it. A professional cleaner was hired to save the piece of art.

A leaky roof in the 1980s caused additional deterioration and chipping of the mural. A professional art conservator from Wisconsin was hired in 1989 to bring the mural back to original condition.

A 1989 Summit story said art conservator Tony Rajer cleaned the mural, stabilized flaking paint and protected it with picture varnish. He also touched it up with water colors and acrylic paints only where the paint was missing.

Last week, Campbell was happy to see the mural shining with bright color after being on the verge of destruction.

"I have been waiting to see this for years," he said. "When I had found out Fisher painted the mural, I had to see it."

Campbell has traveled the country looking at murals in Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"A lot of them reflect the area where they were placed," he said.

Campbell has photos of murals depicting cowboys in Texas, the discovery of iron ore in Minnesota and the mural in Mount Ayr.

The visit to Forest City was part of a trip to see 17 murals throughout the Midwest.  Campbell's next stop was in Emmetsburg, but before moving on, he took one last look at the mural in Forest City.

"The people in town need to know this is here," he said. "They should put a sign out on the highway."

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