Two years of hard work by the Save Our Murals Committee at Billings Senior High School will come together tonight during an event that will feature a book launch, art auction and open house at Senior High.
Copies of the book, “If the Walls Could Speak: The Iconic Murals of Billings Senior High School,” will be available for $45 during the open house, set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The silent auction will take place in the old gym, featuring dozens of donated works by Kira Fercho, Dirk Lee, Kim Jette, Ben Steele and many others.
Visitors will also be invited to take self-guided tours of the murals, which number more than 100 and are located all over all the school’s three floors. There will be treats in the cafeteria and entertainment will be provided by the Senior High music department.
Senior High art teacher Earl Bailey came up with the idea of covering the walls of the school with student art more than 70 years ago. Over the years, some of the murals had been partially or entirely covered up and many were showing signs of age.
The Save Our Murals campaign grew out of plans to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary this year and aimed at cleaning, restoring, lighting and preserving the murals. All proceeds from book sales and the art auction will be used for those purposes.
The 144-page book has stories about the murals and muralists, a map of each floor showing the location of all the art work, plus a section on the “lost murals,” those that committee members knew of that had been painted over at some point. There is also a section devoted to Bailey, known as “the father of the murals.”
All of the surviving murals were photographed for the book by Houston Harmon, the photography teacher at Senior High.
The art auction will feature pieces from Senior High muralists as well as local artists, including Bruce Ryniker’s framed original sketch of his mural and an original framed watercolor by Bailey. Donated works have been flowing in in recent days; you can see many of them on the Save the Murals Facebook page.
The only access to the auction in the old gym will be through the south hallway door.
Members of the mural committee were alumni Kris Keup, Nancy McManus, Linda Meyer, Bob Nolte, Susan Nybo and Marilee and Bruce Ryniker, as well as student Hannah Lose, community member Sally McIntosh and staff members Harmon, the photography instructor, and Lyn McKinney, the Senior High librarian.
Also helping out were the winners of the 75th mural contest, students Paul Haesemeyer and Morgan Legare.
For more information, call McKinney at 281-5442 or 860-2290.