One of the biggest works of art in the USA is right here in Grand Prairie, in plain view. In fact, you may have driven past it and not really known much about this iconic public work of art in the Dallas Area that is now getting some love after 17 years of severe exposure to the elements and car exhaust. (see video at end of this article)
The environmental-prairie-themed mural is located along the Interstate 30 on the walls of the underpass of Belt Line Rd. that was painted in 2003-2004 by local artist Tommy Weddle to commemorate the Breeder’s Cup Thoroughbred Horse Race at Lone Star Park in 2003.
The mural, painted directly on the walls of concrete with sign paint, spans 2,400 linear feet (a ½ mile) and depicts prairie scenes and wetlands from the city’s frontier days. It was a gargantuan undertaking.
The fine art mural depicts very high quality beautiful images of groups of wolves, deer, bison, cranes and, of course, horses… now faded, grimy, peeling, hazy, dried-out, graffitied, and tired.
One would think that the accumulation of 17 years of auto exhaust, dust etc would require hard-scrubbing removal techniques… or perhaps some detergent or solvents, but its not that simple. Because of the badly deteriorated varnish from many years ago, whatever is used to clean the exhaust, also damages the original paint, a no- no in the professional mural conservation profession.
Knowing the quality and value of the public art, the Grand Prairie City Hall held out to find the right expert for a quality mural restoration job, yet were extremely frugal when spending tax-payer’s money.
At the writing of this article, nationally renown mural conservation expert, Scott M. Haskins from California-based Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL) is undertaking with his team the mural restoration work which will focus on saving, preserving and restoring the original art of Tommy Weddle. This requires stabilizing the flaking paint and previous varnish which is now in bad shape.
Contrary to common thought, restoration of the mural does not include repainting, another huge professional no-no when conserving historical art.
The painting restoration work will also include recoating with superior quality varnish that was not available a decade or so ago and has been vetted for use on outdoor freeway murals by over 3 decades of tests and trials by the Department of Cultural Affairs in Los Angeles (they like to call themselves the mural capitol of the world) and the California highway maintenance department, CalTrans. The varnish will protect the mural against the elements and graffiti, saturate the colors and give the mural some “pop and pizzazz” again.
Haskins and his company FACL were also the team entrusted with the uncovering and restoration of the 8,000 sq. ft of murals on the Centennial and Food and Fiber Buildings in Fair Park back at the beginning of the 1999-2002. Mr. Haskins is not a stranger to Dallas or to saving and preserving big artwork! He has also been involved with the conservation treatments on important murals in Houston, for the Texas State University and for WPA murals is several small West Texas towns.
This project at Belt Line and I-30 is expected to lead to traffic delays and lane closures on the on and off ramps through March 15, according to Grand Prairie police.
Tommy Weddle, the artist was born on April 14, 1947 and passed away on Monday, January 23, 2017.
Click on this link to see the website of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories
See FACL’s Capability Statement (past projects): https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/mural/
See the “Media Room” for Scott M. Haskins and FACL: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/media-room/
For more info contact
Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro Art Conservators
805 564 3438
Our sincere thanks for the excellent service and quality products of RainGuard who provided the protective varnish and anti-graffiti layer. Call 949 515 8800