Miami High School Takes Steps to Salvage Historic Mural

MIAMI — Miami High School is in the process of attempting to save the Schuck/McKusick Mural that has graced the Miami High School facade since 1966.

School officials met with Mr. McKusick about the mural a couple of years before he passed away. He was very generous with his time, and gave the School the original drawings for the mural, as well as the tile sample board, so that replacement tiles might eventually be tracked down.

As we all know from living in Arizona, our climate is hard on buildings, and that natural challenge was exacerbated at some point, when the mural was “protected” with what Mr. McKusick said was probably spar varnish. 

Whatever it was, and however much the folks meant well, the varnish both darkened and apparently undermined the adhesive. When we began this effort three years ago, a good deal more than half the tiles were missing, and the total loss in August exceeded three quarters.

It’s not merely that the underlying structure undermined the mural, but that the mural tiles have fallen off the building. Students and employees were occasionally struck by falling tiles or stucco, though thankfully no one was hurt.

School officials tried to find someone to repair the mural in place, to no avail. Mr. McKusick was by then unable, and the contractor he proposed moved out of state. 

Any time the school found someone with the necessary experience, they were either unavailable or cost far more than what the school could pay. After careful consideration, including conversations with staff and alumni, as well as open discussion at public school board meetings, and continuing to pick up an accelerating number of tiles, contractors have removed the remaining tiles from the building.

Miami’s art program will begin to reassemble the murals, using the original documents and color codes provided by Mr. McKusick, on movable wooden panels. Once the murals are reassembled, a process that will likely take a couple of years and for which financial support will have to be found, they can be safely displayed at the school, at Bullion Plaza, and even loaned out for exhibitions elsewhere.

Principal Glen Lineberry expressed appreciation to all the alumni and community partners who have helped in this process, commenting, “This is not a perfect solution, but the only alternative to removal was watching a lovely piece of history and art completely and irretrievably disintegrate."

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