New Children’s Home mural in progress


The floodwall’s well-branded 2,090 feet of art continues to outgrow that long-past number, as we add additional art to various parts of the floodwall system.

Most recently, Portsmouth Murals Inc. (PMI) has added another major panel in recognition of the area’s history of children’s homes.

Famed artist Robert Dafford is, once again, seeing to the creation of the mural after a creative planning process with local Rose Mowery. Thousands of photos were looked at and dwindled down to draw inspiration for the new installation.

“Mowery selected a sort of across-the-board selection of [photos from] different activities and people and eras and times,” Dafford explained. “I worked to try and arrange them in a way that makes sense within borders and trim that works with the imagery.”

Dafford said that they also looked at photos and made a few changes, but his job has mostly been looking at what was given to him and then finding the voice of the painting.

Dafford says this is about the 70th mural he has painted for Portsmouth, which is the largest public collection of his works. “I was glad they chose me,” Dafford said. “I felt this project has plenty to give.”

Dafford says he works 40 hours a week, with a helper that works 30 hours, and a helper that works 20 hours a week. Once you add in various hours here and there, he says 100 hours a week go into the mural creation process, which spans 4-5 weeks.

“What is not visible to the public is how many layers of paint it takes to get all the figures well,” Dafford explained.

PMI Board Member and local historian Paul O’Neill sees value in the newest mural.

“I recently brought it up and the board thought it was worthy, because it is history. There was a time when people were going off to wars and leaving behind orphans. In the depression, some people couldn’t afford to raise kids. We felt it was part of our history that was worthy of being included.”

O’Neill joined the PMI board, due to his devotion to advocating for local history, which is a major aspect of the mural project.

“I didn’t grow up here, I grew up outside of Pittsburgh. When I got married and moved here, I was immediately amazed by the history of Portsmouth. So many people have no idea how important Portsmouth was in developing a lot of industry. We had the largest show factory of its time, the brick yards were plentiful, the large steel mills, manufacturing of airplanes and engines and all of that. All of this history is important to me and I love the murals, because they preserve the history and they’re definitely a tourism attraction. Portsmouth has become a destination point to learn about history and it is important to preserve that.”

The newest mural is being installed currently, with the final touches going up now.

For more information on PMI and the murals, visit

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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