Betty Munro: Syracuse in Watercolors

Betty Munro, an art teacher originally from Madison, Wisconsin, taught high school art there for seven years before moving to Syracuse in 1966 with her husband, the late John Munro.  After moving to Syracuse, Betty began painting scenes of the arts, housing, festivals, sports, and recreation. Her impressionistic watercolors captured the features that make Syracuse a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Munro would often be found painting downtown in the middle of all the action; whether that be parades, festivals, the Farmers Market, or lunchtime in Columbus Circle and Clinton & Hanover Squares. She considered downtown her personal studio and she preferred painting in watercolor because it was faster, allowing her to capture the action as it flitted by her easel.

Munro would often capture in her work the ever-changing facets of city life. She not only painted the older buildings, but she also captured the new and the ones under construction. Betty’s most comprehensive series is Civic Center Suite, which she considered to be her major work.  Painted on-site, the 27 paintings document the construction of the John H. Mulroy Civic Center between 1974-1975.  Betty thought of the paintings as “one continuous watercolor,” rather than individual works.  Betty recalled that when she arrived to paint the construction, “everyone and everything was moving.  I felt a need to record the excitement and action with my brush.”  When she completed the series, Betty received a plaque that read, “Syracuse artist Betty Munro has created what Civic Center architects consider to be a first – an artistic record of the growth and development of a major building complex.” When the Center opened, and again during its Tenth Anniversary Celebration, the series was on display in the three-level lobby of the theatre complex.

Munro’s works are now held at the Onondaga Historical Association and are available for purchase in the downtown gift gallery. When she learned that Civic Center Suite was coming to the Onondaga Historical Association, she remarked, “Glad to hear they will be staying together and coming out of retirement.”