Mike Doherty and Nathan Marshall, who have assisted artist Robert Dafford in completing some of the more than 70 murals on the wall, were busy Wednesday using pressure washers on the mural showing the old Portsmouth Spartans knocking heads in a football game.
“We’re removing this one and the one of Branch Rickey,” Doherty said. “They were painted back in 1994 and they used a different primer then.”
Although the untrained eye can see nothing wrong with the paintings as they are, he said the primer is starting to fail and soon will affect the painting.
“We’re going to strip it down, put another coat of primer on now, and then next spring the murals will be repainted,” he said.
The artist who did the paintings, Dafford of Louisiana, will return to do the painting, “assisted by me, and a couple of others,” Doherty said.
“It will be, for the most part, the very same paintings as they originally were — exactly the same,” Doherty said.
Bob Morton, president of the board of directors of Portsmouth Murals Inc., said the primer used during the timeframe of 1994 “has been a problem almost from the beginning. We have had a real water problem with that primer, with water getting behind it.”
It was a different primer than that used on the wall for later paintings, with which Morton said there has been no problems.
He said the only murals affected were the Spartans and Rickey and also part of the one of Julia Marlow.
“We need to get rid of the old primer and put the newer primer on. That will be done now, and then next spring, Dafford will return to repaint the murals to exactly the same as they were,” Morton said.
“We will have a bare wall for a while on those three sections, with just the new primer on them,” he said. “That won’t affect the tourist season to amount to anything, and at least the local people will know what’s happening. It’s just temporary repairs and things will be as they were come next spring when we get Dafford back to do it.”
Morton estimated the cost of removing the paintings and re-priming the wall at between $4,000 and $5,000. Dafford will be paid, of course, for repainting the murals.
The murals were the idea of Dr. Louis and Ava Chaboudy after they saw a similar project in Stubenville. They later met with Dafford, the Louisiana muralist, and a contract was signed for the work.
A dedication ceremony for the floodwall murals was held in 2002. At that time, Dafford had completed 52 paintings at a cost of about $700,000. Others have been added during the last eight years.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.