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Mt. Lebanon High School making attempt to preserve senior class murals

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 11:58 a.m.
A student walks by one of the murals in the halls of Mt. Lebanon High School Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The school is taking pictures of all the murals and will reproduce them in some way in the new building. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A student walks by one of the hall murals at Mt. Lebanon High School Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The school is taking pictures of all the murals and will reproduce them in some way in the new building. Heidi Murrin PIttsburgh Tribune-Review
One of the hall murals in Mt. Lebanon High School Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The school is taking pictures of all the murals and will reproduce them in some way in the new building. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Two of the hall murals in Mt. Lebanon High School Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The school is taking pictures of all of the murals and will reproduce them in some way in the new building. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For nearly 30 years, members of every senior class at Mt. Lebanon High School have painted murals of the school's Blue Devil mascot in two halls that connect the building's academic wings to its gymnasium and arts wing.

But with both hallways being readied for the wrecking ball in the district's $110 million renovation of the sprawling building, officials are taking steps to preserve — and perhaps one day recreate — the brightly colored murals as part of the district's 100-year history.

In a tradition dating to at least 1986, one or two seniors are chosen to design and paint a mural representing their class, with the work overseen by the school's Advanced Placement art teacher, said Principal Brian McFeely.

“They're part of our tradition going on 30 years now,” he said.

The murals show a range of styles, from fierce devils holding tridents, standing amid flames, to teenage imps in contemporary clothes. Although the Blue Devil figure is a constant, the murals have become peeks into the decades from which they sprang.

“Here you have the ‘Breakfast Club' look,” said district spokeswoman Cissy Bowman, indicating a mural from 1987 with male and female Blue Devils with the big hair and big shoulders typical of the decade.

Other murals depict the devil as a superhero, or multiple devils as athletes on a box resembling Wheaties cereal.

Terrence McClusky, one of the seniors in 1986 who conceived a mural featuring the Blue Devil emerging from a wave of flames, said he was surprised that his class's mural hadn't been painted over or somehow destroyed.

“At the time, you're a senior in high school, you want to make your mark, and I got the chance to do that literally. … For a 17-year-old kid, it was gold,” said McClusky, now 45 and living in Los Angeles as a freelance advertising and script writer.

“I never in a million years would have expected that kind of longevity. It's a really nice tribute to the students.”

“I get the question a lot over the years, ‘You're going to preserve the murals, right?' ” Bowman said.

Preservation actually has been underway for some time. Since 2005, officials and students knew a renovation was likely and the devils would need to be moved.

Students began painting their class murals on removable panels instead of onto walls. The murals on the walls will be photographed and the images recreated somewhere once work is complete, either by being printed on canvas or tile, Bowman said.

Construction will turn the hallways that host the murals, an adjacent gymnasium and a swimming pool into a large central space.

Elements of an atrium, cafeteria and lobby will combine in an area that will tie the front entrance on Horsman Drive to an entrance at the rear of the building, said Rick Marciniak, project manager.

The upper hallway will become part of a secondary entrance off Cochran Road and overlook an atrium; the lower hallway will become part of the cafeteria kitchens.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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