Mural removed for cleaning, restoration
The preserved piece of local history will be put into a new middle school.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The drive to save The Rayen School mural took a major step forward as the 65-foot-long painting depicting 100 years of Rayen and Youngstown history was removed from an auditorium wall Thursday.
"It's gone," said Principal Henrietta Williams, a tinge of sadness in her voice.
The mural was well preserved and came off the wall intact, she said.
Art conservator and artist Phyllis Beard of Boardman supervised the removal and will now clean and restore the artwork, which will be installed in a new Rayen Middle School that the city school district will build.
The Rayen School, erected in 1922, will be razed at the end of this school year. The middle school will be built on the same site.
The mural was painted by Rayen art teacher John Benninger in 1958. Harry Mays, president of the 1958 senior class at Rayen, has been the driving force in saving the mural from the wrecking ball.
Mays, now living in Boardman, approached the board of education about saving the mural and then launched his own effort, enlisting the aid of Rayen graduates and others along the way.
The Rayen Foundation came up with 1,000 to get the effort started, and Mays told the board it would cost 20,000 to 25,000 to do the job.
He announced a fundraising campaign in late November to collect that money, and a story on the effort ran in The Vindicator on Nov. 24.
The next day, Tony and Mary Lariccia of Boardman announced they would put up 25,000 to fund the project.
Lariccia said that should be enough to save the Rayen mural and perhaps prompt other donations to help save a smaller mural at Woodrow Wilson High School, also slated for demolition at the end of this school year.
The Wilson site also will get a new middle school.
Mays said the gift from the Lariccias made the project come together quickly but the group is still accepting contributions to help with a Rayen student journalistic project that will create the "Rayen Retrospective," a pictorial and written history of The Rayen School.
Beard will oversee the removal of the Wilson mural and store it until such time as the school district or some Wilson alumni decide what should be done with it, Mays said. There is no money to clean and restore it at this time, he added.
All contributors to the Rayen mural project will get a copy of the "Rayen Retrospective," which will include a foldout of the Rayen mural and a DVD version of the school's history in photographs.
Mays said continued fundraising will help make the retrospective affordable for all alumni and friends.
Teachers and students are working on the document now and will have it ready for the printers at the end of the school year.
Copies will be distributed in late summer, Mays said.
Checks should be made out to Youngstown City Schools and sent in care of "Save The Rayen Mural" to Carolyn Funk, Treasurer, P.O. Box 550, 20 W. Wood St., Youngstown, OH 44501.