Leaky Building Threatens Murals

Leaking rain water is threatening to ruin Walter Anderson's largest work.

The murals at the Ocean Springs Community Center are already showing signs of water damage. But the city and museum are taking steps to preserve the artistic treasure.

The city owned building next door to the Walter Anderson Museum is home to one of the artist's most familiar projects.

"They're Anderson's largest work. And they've very significant," said museum director Marilyn Lyons in describing the murals.

The community center murals are often the first stop for museum visitors. But the colorful, creative scenes are being threatened by Mother Nature.

"There's significant water damage under every window. And the top left hand corner of the museum as you face the stage has very significant damage," Lyons said.

The first step in solving the problem is repairing the building. City aldermen are seeking bids to repair leaky windows and inadequate drain spouts. Once the water is kept out, a conservator will restore the murals.

"She would simply do everything she can to save what's there and then apply a paint that's kind of even in nature and you eye wouldn't catch the damage the way it does now," she explained.

Gene Dent's family is visiting from Jackson. His children have been studying Anderson's art in school.

"Walter Anderson, he's a national treasure. But certainly he's an Ocean Springs treasure. And they need to preserve this so people will come here and see this," said Dent.

The murals are not only an artistic treasure, they're also a significant piece of Ocean Springs history. Back in 1951, Walter Anderson agreed to paint the murals for the token sum of one dollar. More than a half century later, the works are insured for several million dollars.

The museum director would like to see the project finished this year, before next winter's rainy season threatens to do even more damage.

The museum director says it will cost roughly $50,000 for the restoration work alone. That doesn't include the repairs to the building. The City of Ocean Springs voted this week to seek bids for that part of the project.