Progress is being made in the effort to preserve more than 100 murals painted on the walls of Billings Senior High School.
Representatives of the class of 1964, which had its 50th reunion this summer, were planning to present a check for $1,755 to Principal Dennis Holmes Thursday afternoon.
The money will be used to publish a book about the murals by next summer, and to use proceeds from sales of the book to clean, restore and light the murals. The money came from an art auction held during the class reunion.
“We just figured art for art,” said class member Kristeen Keup. “It made sense.”
In addition to the art auction money, individual class members also donated $500 toward the project, and another $500 was donated by the class of 1965, which hasn’t even met for its 50th reunion yet.
The project was conceived when Senior High Librarian Lyn McKinney and other staff members were planning the 75th anniversary of the school, which opened in 1939. They decided to do something about the murals, many of which need restoration.
Holmes named McKinney to chair a “Save Our Murals” committee. Keup, who is also on the committee and is a retired Senior High teacher, said the 110 people who attended the class of ’64 reunion this summer quickly embraced the idea of trying to preserve the murals.
“It’s part of our every day at school,” she said. “Even if you don’t stop and study them … you just remember the different murals. The main thing was, they couldn’t imagine them not being there.”
Hannah Lose, who will graduate from Senior High in the spring, has been working with the committee for her Platinum Project. The hope is to publish a book with photos of all the murals and biographies of the people who painted them.
Keup said they want to have all the materials for the book gathered by February and to publish the book next May or June.
At the reunion, artists who donated works for the auction included Ben Steele, whose daughter Rosemarie is a ’64 graduate, and class members Karen Popelka Boylan, who lives in California, and Paulette Beringer Frazer, of Hardin.
The committee is hoping it can recruit some of the artists who painted the murals to help with the restoration, which would lower costs. Committee members also hope classes from other years will follow the lead of ’64 and ’65 and make donations to the project.
One more idea is to look into what it would take to have Senior High listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as Broadwater and McKinley elementary schools are already. Keup figures the school would qualify, given its age and the significance of its murals.
“We think it would be a great way to save the murals,” she said.