Restoration of Mural Damaged by Harvey Almost Complete

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NBC News

A historic Houston mural damaged during Hurricane Harvey is nearly restored to its original condition after floodwaters seeped into the structure, causing paint to pop off and mold to grow.

African-American muralist John Biggers' 1953 artwork, "Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education," is expected to be fully repaired before the end of the month, the Houston Chronicle reported . The mural located in the city's Third Ward features images of abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and poet Phillis Wheatley.

Biggers painted the mural at the Blue Triangle building one year after women of color started the community center, then known as the first branch of Houston's YWCA.

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts initially treated the mural after rainwater from the August 2017 storm chipped off paint, while moisture collected in the mural's room caused black mold to grow. Museum staff covered the roof above the mural, used dehumidifiers and filled gaps in the paint with Japanese tissue paper.

The temporary work successfully stabilized the mural and the wall, said Scott Haskins, a California-based art conservator hired to handle the restoration work.

Haskins specializes in murals, and his first job was to restore a 1365 mural in an Italian monastery. But he said Biggers' Third Ward mural carries greater significance for the art world.

"He's telling stories," Haskins said. "This isn't just a decoration."

The mural is composed of several layers, and Haskins is going through each layer, removing mold and dotting color-matched paint in areas where there are gaps. After the painting is restored, Haskins will apply a protective varnish.

"We don't want to preserve this for the next five or 10 years," he said. "We want it to last for generations."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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