Artist's family unhappy as school plans to paint over murals

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on May 7, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Updated Monday, May 7 at 6:19 PM

RICHARDSON — A North Texas family is fighting to save artwork at a Richardson elementary school. For them, it's a matter of preserving history and the memory of a beloved family member.

The mascot at Jess Harben Elementary has always been the Hawks. So In 1993, a local cartoon artist volunteered his time to paint some hawks with a flair for history.

The images in the school cafeteria tell the story of American history — from Washington crossing the Delaware to the first moon walk.

Sondra Brown, who still works at the school, remembers volunteering her late brother Randy Ingram to paint the images.

"Every day I walk I to that cafeteria and I see them, and that's a part of him," Brown said. "The Dallas Morning News even wrote a story about it."

But when the school district decided to renovate Jess Harben, it was decided Ingram's art would be covered with a fresh coat of paint.

"It's like losing my uncle all over again," said Heather Brown, the painter's niece. "That is one of my greatest memories of him."

After a desperate plea from family members, school administrators decided to keep seven images untouched, while 11 will be painted over. Eight more Ingram creations in the gym will also be covered.

"If you're going to keep part of them, then you're cutting off the timeline," Heather Brown said.

District officials were satisfied with the compromise.

"It is not only a memory of the artist that has passed on, it's also a part of the history of the school," said district spokesperson Tim Clark. "So I think upon further reflection, the school decided that it would be a win-win to have a compromise."

But that's not enough to satisfy family members.

"I'm pleased they will keep some of them," Sondra Brown said. "But, of course, I'm disappointed they won't keep all of them."

Richardson ISD officials said a photographer will take photos of the images that will be painted over. Those pictures will then be mounted and hung at the school.

Family members say it's just not the same as the real thing.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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