Snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night don’t keep postal couriers from the swift completion of their rounds but surely wreak havoc on murals. A forlorn dullness is slowly sucking the vibrancy from the large photographic image emblazoned on the south wall of the post office near the intersection of University Drive and 7th Street.
Several major streets connect at that high-profile intersection, considered the gateway to the Cultural District. Motorists wait out the long traffic signals by sitting in their cars and, in many cases, taking long ganders at the mural.
“It’s a very prominent location, and [the mural] needs some work,” said Martha Peters, director of public art for the Arts Council of Fort Worth, a nonprofit that provides grants and administers the city’s public art program.
The steel poles that were bent during the 2000 tornado are positioned in front of the wall, with the mural providing a stunning backdrop. Or it was stunning until the fading became noticeable in recent years.
The mural depicts a vast blue sky splattered with white clouds above a Texas horizon. Wyman Meinzer, the official state photographer of Texas, took the photo, which is copyrighted 2008 in the mural’s bottom right corner.
Transferring the photo to the post office wall required installing numerous large metal panels, each containing a portion of the photo. Assembling the panels re-created the massive image. Ultraviolet laminate was applied to the panels to help maintain their colors, but the process didn’t hold. The mural is looking shot after 10 years.
“Those kinds of processes sometimes have a limited lifespan,” Peters said. “Our sun is pretty brutal here.”
A local developer who asked for anonymity so as not to butt heads with city officials said refurbishing the mural requires replacing the panels at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000 total. He said the photocopying process is improved and would probably last much longer than 10 years if it were re-done. He would like for the city to pay for the upgrade with its public arts funding.
“It should be replaced,” he said.
Taxpayer money used for public arts funding is generated from “voter-approved bond programs for capital improvements associated with specific city-owned streets, parks, libraries, fire stations, police stations, community centers, et cetera,” Peters said. “Those funds cannot be used for other projects.”
The U.S. Postal Service owns the building. The anonymous local developer said the city bought the rights to the Meinzer photo and established an easement on the south wall to allow it to spend city money on the mural project. City officials have spent money on the wall once before and could and should do it again, he said.
Peters, however, said city officials reviewed its records and found no documentation of ownership of the mural.
Much of the public art in Fort Worth is privately owned and does not receive city funding for maintenance.
“It’s up to the owner of the property” to maintain the mural, she said. “Whenever we are asked to give technical advice on public art that other people are installing, we always tell them that they need to think about long-term maintenance. A public art piece, no matter what it’s made out of, even if it’s the most durable material, requires some amount of maintenance or cleaning or sometimes replacement of pieces or parts. That’s something that we, in managing the city’s public art program, are always thinking about – what maintenance a piece might need to have.”
A spokesperson with the U.S. Postal Service was unable to determine prior to publication of this article whether plans for restoration are being considered.
Weeks ago, local muralist Jimmy Joe Jenkins heard the buzz about possibly refurbishing the mural and pitched an altogether different idea to the Cultural District enthusiasts – painting over the current mural with a new image.
“I have the design all ready,” he said. “It’s really cool. I would absolutely love to be the person to do something on that wall. I’ve spent a lot of time on the mural itself, designing it.”
The main character on Jenkins’ proposed mural is the late Fort Worth actor Bill Paxton dressed like Pecos Bill and roping a tornado.
The current image was fairly unremarkable even before the fading began, Jenkins said, adding that his image of a cowboy on horseback roping a tornado with cattle around will add pop to the intersection and tie into the cowboys-and-culture theme and the bent billboard poles, which were left as public art.
“Those arches are bent just amazing to fit into the mural,” Jenkins said.