Art Conservation Mural Survey Reported To TSU Mural Task Force- Save The Murals Initiative

Save The Murals is a campaign that looks like “it’s got legs!” Texas Southern University has been focusing on taking care of their heritage and collection of 123 murals by African American artists (see Intro Video at since the second half of last year when an international outcry was heard at the painting-out of two murals by well known artist Harvey Johnson. A set back in and of itself, the act truly catalyzed an effort and an awareness to protect and save what now makes up an important part of the TSU art collection and an important national contribution to black art in America, both historical and contemporary. Mural painting has been part of the curriculum at TSU since 1949 when it was directed by John T. Biggers and Harvey Johnson.

TSU Mural by John T. Biggers

Mural by John T. Biggers at TSU

Thursday, February 23 was a big day in the process of moving the discussion forward for the Save The Murals process. In the morning, I met with TSU President Dr. John M. Rudley who confirmed his interest and passion for the finest works on campus. He has approved the art conservation and restoration of murals by John T. Biggers, whom he knew personally. He also encouraged the fundraising for the art conservation of the rest of the collection under the guidance and efforts of the University Museum, under whose care the murals now are. He was very complimentary about the quality of the efforts and report by Scott Haskins and FACL, Inc. resulting from the mural collection survey and acknowledged its great worth in moving forward.

As a side note, I enjoyed very much meeting and talking with Dr. Rudley’s extremely gracious wife, Dr. Docia Rudley, at a recent University Museum opening whom the Texas Southern University Museum considers a strong supporter and advocate for the arts and the museum’s efforts. This Power Couple is indeed a great asset for the preservation, art conservation and restoration of this very unique collection of African American art.

In the afternoon, I met with a very impressive gathering of 20 professionals from the community who make up the Mural Task Force. Coming from institutions and businesses in Houston, they were art dealers, painting conservators, directors of some of Houston’s most prestigious museums and private collections, important collectors, professional consultants, Deans of depts., professors, curators, inner college upper administration, grant writers, urban planners and the office of Shiela Lee and Janice Weaver, Congresswoman. Wow… and you thought this Save The Murals was a “little deal?!”

I reported to the Mural Task Force the results of the mural collection survey which was very enthusiastic about the quality of the survey and the way the details and statistics were reported. See blog post at

The survey outlines the priorities and conditions of the murals and during our meeting, ideas were presented about raising funds for both short term emergencies and long term care. Their collective professionalism and potential public outreach is huge and is being marshaled for the benefit of the preservation, art conservation and restoration of this beautiful and monumental mural collection.

Stay tuned for the next blog post… I’ll clue you in on my proposal to reach out with an essential art and family history related hurricane preservation message that could reach many millions of people, including corporate America, university campuses and alumni. It will be a huge opportunity for a corporate sponsor to connect and influence with their brand or corporate image.  Save Your Stuff LLC will be giving away profits from sales and services to this Save The Murals initiative.

The Task Force will meet again in two weeks. But I won’t be in attendance. My job now, is to organize and make proposals for this outreach effort.

Btw, you may download free the pamphlet distributed at the National Hurricane Conference that helps prepare art related items for when the building starts to shake. Go to This is essential emergency preparedness info that may be reproduced and distributed in your organization or office. The Bank of America Corp distributed over 500,000 copies of the earthquake version of this pamphlet through their HR Depts.

Would you like me to custom label this info for your company? Give me a call at 888 704 7757.

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Mural Task Force

The fact that Texas Southern University’s Mural Task Force had been organized to coordinate efforts for the art conservation, restoration of the murals,and was active caught, me by surprise when I first heard about it! I’m still in awe. Wow, that’s what I consider to be a solid interest and being proactive in moving forward with the issues of mural preservation on campus.

The Mural Task Force is a committee of 20 people from other institutions and organization that have volunteered and are interested in this effort. Among the members of this committee are their congresswoman and reps from the Houston Museum of Fine Art. It doesn’t sound like this is a light weight group!

I suppose they’ve been waiting for me to arrive on the scene, do the survey and formulate the statistics. In the last post, you’ll see that I completed the survey of the conditions of the 123 murals last Feb. 4th. Once I report to the committee, then we’ll discuss a plan, I suppose. Fundraising will be on the agenda, I suppose.

I’m flying out to Houston today to have a meeting with the University President tomorrow morning and the meeting with the Mural Task Force in the afternoon. There will definately be something to blog about afterwards so stay tuned!

FACL, Inc.

A Stairwell mural... one of my favorites

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TSU Mural Art Conservation Survey Completed- Surprising Results

The mural conservation survey to inventory the murals and review their art conservation, preservation and art restoration needs was completed and reported on the week ending on February 4th. But there’s a surprising twist! The inventory estimate count had been 168 murals in prior years but only 123 showed up in this survey! So, how do you loose a mural?! Well, yes, murals can be painted out but that’s not the case here for 45 missing murals!

This was not the first time that a count was made of the murals but previously the good faith effort was made by students under the direction of faculty. Many of the murals are made up of multiple panels or sections and apparently got inventoried as separate works of art…. hence the discrepancy.

Now that the survey is done, the results will be [resented to a "Mural Task Force" organized with experts from outside of the TSU campus, to discuss the results and plan for the future. Stay tuned! I'm giving a presentation to the Mural Task Force on February 23rd.

TSU Murals Flaking

TSU's Mural of Flaking Jazz Musicians

Conservation questions? Call Scott Haskins toll free 888 704 7757

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Painting Out Of Murals – Cleaning off the Overpaint – Art Conservation

The removal process, you can see from the last post, we’re talking about involves the cleaning off the overpaint from the murals that were painted out. This is more than just a cleaning issue: the art conservation and mural restoration of these two paintings will involve removing the overpaint, removing the spackling the painters used to even out the wall (Tacky looking! They didn’t even try to match the texture of the wall), addressing the flaking paint (consolidation and stabilizing it) that was covered over by the paint, properly filling and inpainting losses and then the final protective varnish layers.

I was planning on getting back to this blog the next day after I started the testing of the cleaning of the mural… but here it is several days later. The committee overseeing the survey asked me to add a couple of details to my reports that kept me busier than I had planned.

Tests to restore painted out murals

Testing for removal of overpaint from historic murals

The tests showed me that dissolving off the paint is not possible because the original painting/mural, which was done in acrylic, will dissolve in the process. Also, the texture of the wall complicates the issue of removing the overpaint evenly. Here’s a note for all you mural painters out there: If this mural had been painted in oil and been varnished, cleaning off the overpaint would be MUCH easier (they always paint out murals with acrylic paint) and the mural would be much more easily restored. The technique for overpaint removal will have to be a variation of the technique of swelling the paint then peeling it off. The tests confirmed that this can be done so we are proposing to move forward with the restoration of the murals by Harvey Johnson that were painted out. There are some logistics issues that we also have to consider: using smelly material in the busiest building on campus in the are of the main entrance, working on scaffolding.

So, there you go. The latest scoop on the famous Harvey Johnson murals at TSU. If this project gets scheduled, you’ll be the first to know if you stay plugged into the updates of this blog (click on the RSS button at the top of the page).

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Harvey Johnson Murals Were Overpainted

Murals? What murals?

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Testing the Removal of Overpaint from Murals by Harvey Johnson

I knew that the paint used for Harvey Johnson’s murals was probably acrylic but I wasn’t sure what the original artwork was painted with. It took about 5 minutes to quickly figure out that it too was done in acrylic… about 45 years ago.  Also, I quickly discovered that as I rub with a solvent that dissolves the top layer of paint… I’ll dissolve the original paint too. That’s not good.

Then I tried a citris product that swells the overpaint and I can peel it off like taking skin off of a sunburn! Anyone need a job? I started out with a couple of  2″ x 2″ squares but I’m going to clean off a spot about 12″ x 12″ just to get a good look tomorrow.

TSU has some great paintings an I am really enjoying my week here. This is Scott Haskins, over and out… till tomorrow.

Murals at TSU

A detail of a mural at Texas Southern University.

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There Are Some Great Murals at TSU! Second Day of Survey Underway

So, first off, the whole motivation for the hoopla over the murals at TSU was because a couple of great, historical murals got painted out. I’ll actually be testing those murals (white walls) tomorrow to see if they can be uncovered and how much it will cost. I’ll report on that, with photos, tomorrow. Here’s what the walls look like now…

Murals were painted out here 6 months ago

"What murals? Where?"

I’ve been on campus now for my second day looking at over 100 murals by past students and faculty from over the last 50 + years… and damn! There are some great murals/paintings. Of course there is some student stuff that was done just to get a grade. But there are lots that are very good. And I’m going to show you a bunch of them! In fact, I’m so excited about what I’m seeing, I’m going to make a little video and post it later. Of course, if you are acquainted with Texas Southern University, you’ll know its all art from African Americans (I presume). Most certainly, most all subjects reflect that bias.

TSU MuralsMy purpose, as I have written before, is to determine the condition of all the murals on campus and help the University Museum set priorities for taking care of the collection in the future. Lots of them are in really bad shape. I’ve got “upper level” meetings tomorrow to discuss progress.

Stay tuned. More info to come. Hey! You might be interested to know that I have been using a special black light to help see details that have ether been obliterated or have aged into “invisibility.” For more info, go and click in the navigation bar “UV Blacklight” Here’s a photo of a signature that was totally invisible and it popped right out …

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Cleaning Off Overpaint From Harvey Johnson Murals Similar To Work At Fair Park

New video compares same problem at Fair Park, Dallas

Media: Contact Scott Haskins at 805 570 4140 (see Museum Wax info for how to protect collections at home and business)

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Progress with Art Conservation Mural Survey Forms

1 of 123 murals at TSU

Just a note that we are full steam ahead (isn’t there a more updated technological saying for this?) in planning the survey forms and designing the inventory software for the TSU mural survey that will start in a week. We’re batting back and forth the proposed forms today.

Leave comments! Suggestions about how we should list priorities? Remember, two were painted out…

Keep updated at

Other mural project coming to a close at

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Check out the essential info for art collectors at tab “UV Blacklight”, same blog site.

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Planning Art Conservation Priorities for the Collection Survey of the Murals – Help Us!

So, as you’ve been told, Texas Southern University (TSU) has contracted with Scott Haskins and FACL, Inc. to do a survey of the 168 murals on campus. Even without really getting into the project, there has already been significant progress by TSU admin. by turning the care of the murals over to the art museum and counting the murals as part of the art collection. Previously they were just ignored, mostly “cared” for by facilities (like painting one out – tongue in cheek).

We’re in the planning stages right now with Monica Vidal, the TSU Art Museum’s new Registrar, to design the survey and software for the inventory. We are defining the categories for how we want to prioritize the murals when they are inspected. Obviously, one of the ways to set priorities is to consider their state of conservation (condition). Here are some categories we came up with for the Priority Scale:

0- No action needed
1- Stable but treatments for aesthetic improvements needed
2- Protective measures required
3- Some conservation treatments required
4- Extensive non emergency conservation treatments required
5- Emergency/immediate conservation treatments required

Of course there are other reasons why a mural might be a priority: political reasons, donor driven decision, work should be included in a building renovation etc.

What do you think? Leave a comment that gives us a good idea and we MAY take you up on your suggestion and include it in the survey and museum records! If we don’t include your idea in the survey, no hard feelings!? It could be for logistics and not because it wasn’t a good idea…. but leave a comment anyway. You idea WILL make it way to the collection management.

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Murals at TSU

Detail of mural at Texas Southern University

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Scott Haskins – Fine Art Conservation Laboratories Contracted To Assist TSU With Murals

Scott M. Haskins

Scott M. Haskins - Art Conservation Consultant for Murals at TSU

Scott Haskins – Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL) has just been contracted by TSU to look over the murals (do a survey), make proposals (establish priorities), take inventory and be the expert consultant. I’ll be on campus the first week of February.
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Note what you can do to prepare your artwork and collectibles for hurricanes – click on page in Navigation Bar.

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