By HAROLD GWIN
The Rayen Mural that graced the walls of the Rayen School for 49 years may finally be getting a new home.
The city school board appears willing to give or loan the 65-by-6-foot painting to the Mahoning County Historical Society.
The mural, depicting much of Youngstown’s history, was painted in 1958 by art teacher John Benninger and was given to the school by that year’s graduating class. It was removed in January 2007 as the building was to be razed. It was to find a new home in a proposed Rayen Middle School, which was to be built on the same Benita Avenue site as part of a $190 million district rebuilding program.
However, that new school was never built as the scope of the rebuilding effort was cut back by the Ohio School Facilities Commission due to a declining enrollment in Youngstown schools.
Harry Mays, president of the Rayen Class of 1958, spearheaded the fund-raising effort to have the mural carefully removed and restored. He approached the school board Tuesday with a suggestion that the mural be given or lent to the historical society to hang in its West Federal Street building, which will soon undergo its own renovation.
The mural has been saved, cleaned, restored and is ready for mounting in a new home, Mays said. Right now, it remains in the Boardman studio of artist Phyllis Beard, who did the restoration work.
“I’m here tonight to offer you an opportunity to showcase the history of the Youngstown school system and a home for the Rayen School mural,” Mays told the board.
He said the historical society has expressed an interest in getting the mural in its building and has indicated an exhibit on the mural and the Rayen School will be part of the display.
“The mural is a historical document, and the Mahoning Valley Historical Society is where it belongs,” Mays said.
“I support your request,” said Anthony Catale, school board president, agreeing that the historical society is an appropriate setting for the mural.
He promised to put a resolution on the board’s July 28 agenda to act on Mays’ proposal.