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2005 Ohio Historic Preservation Office Award Recipients

Fort Hayes Metropolitan 
  Education Center, Columbus / McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory receives award
Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, Columbus / McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory

Columbus artist Emerson Burkhart painted the mural Music for the Central High School auditorium in 1934 under the New Deal's Public Works of Art, or PWA, program. Four years later it was whitewashed, the principal thought the subject matter was too risqué for high school students. Hidden for nearly 60 years, the mural was removed in 1996, and the mayor appointed a task force to oversee restoring it. The original estimate for cleaning and restoring the mural and reinstalling it in a public place downtown was over $500,000, an amount that the task force felt it would be unable to raise. Consultant Robert Lodge of McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory offered an unconventional idea: to enlist the aid of students to do much of the work, with proper training and supervision. Principal Dr. Jerry McAfee and the faculty of Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center embraced the project as an opportunity to combine hands-on education with community service. With training and supervision by conservators from McKay Lodge, the Fort Hayes administrators, faculty, and students devoted six school years to the time-consuming task of cleaning and restoring the mural one square inch at a time. A core group of students received training and were responsible for training and supervising others who worked on the mural, thus taking ownership of the project and the process. More than a thousand students participated, contributing work valued at over $185,000. The project became a springboard for courses in art history and regional artists; the science of art conservation; and the history of the 1930s. The restored mural also inspired original music and dance performed when it was unveiled at its new location in the Greater Columbus Convention Center earlier this year, the first time it had been seen in its entirety since 1938. Art teacher Teresa Weidenbush was responsible for day-to-day supervision of the students and deserves particular recognition for taking on a project without knowing how involved it would be or how long it would take. Her willingness to devote six years to the project shows her remarkable commitment to learning and to the community. Through the efforts of owner Robert Lodge and conservator Stefan Dedecek, of McKay Lodge, Fort Hayes students were given outstanding training, professional supervision, and confidence-building support throughout the project. Their willingness to work with students made the project possible.

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