GREENVILLE — Paintings that had been hanging in the cafeteria of the old Greenville Junior High School have made their way to Greenville High School, thanks to some locals as well as the Ohio Arts Council.
Darryl Mehaffie of Greenville brought the Ohio Arts Council to visit Memorial Hall last summer, and while there, Isabel Culbertson, a local artist interested in preservation, brought up the need to look at the paintings at the junior high. They did.
“They told us what we could do for them,” Mehaffie said.
Culbertson felt the paintings, first of all, should not have been hanging in the cafeteria.
“They had Plexiglas over them and their conditions were so bad,” said Culbertson. “They were yellowish.”
“If the restoration wouldn’t have gotten done, they would have destroyed the paintings,” Mehaffie said.
Ken Emerick, artist programs director at the Ohio Arts Council, took charge of the project and worked with Greenville School District Treasurer Carla Surber in getting the job done. They hired Dave Terry, who does fine arts restoration.
Terry and Fred Fochtman of Columbus were sent by the Columbus Art Works Council to evaluate the Treaty of Greenville four-painting complex that was hanging in the junior high cafeteria.
“I got involved after the Ohio Arts Council conducted a regional meeting,” said Emerick.
It was then that he and Surber began working on it.
“It involved four separate paintings leading up to the signing of the Greenville Treaty,” Emerick remarked. “It was Carla who advocated that it should be relocated to the high school.”
He went on, “Dave went to the school and screwed through the canvas frame. He thought it was in pretty good condition. He recommended taking off the Plexiglas, cleaning it, and said there was not a lot he had to do. And, he recommended for the school to keep it in the community because of its historic value. It had a lot of local connections to it. The local people realized how important it is to have an important piece of art to be enjoyed.”
Emerick estimates it took two to three months to get the paintings restored.
“Dave was amazed of its good condition,” he said. “The Ohio Arts Council paid Dave’s initial fee, and the school paid for the restoration of it.”
Emerick has not seen the paintings in their new location, but plans to visit during a regional meeting in the spring.
“The main painting signifies the signing of the Treaty of Greenville,” Mehaffie said. “It was done by E. Paul Wilhelm, an instructor at the Dayton Art Institute.”
It was made for use by Greenville High School and dedicated in 1938. Paintings were Treaty 9×8-feet; two side panels 6×8-feet each; and George Washington plus four 3×12 feet.
The four pieces of art were painted in the 1930s by Wilhelm. It was noted that Anna Bier, Greenville High School supervisor of art, contacted Siegfried Weng, director of the Dayton Art Institute who referred the project to Wilhelm to do the painting.
The paintings, it was noted, were painted with heavy oil paint — a 100-year-old colorfast oil paint — on heavy canvas. It was varnished thereafter and, in 1976, some restoration occurred, with new varnish and Plexiglas cover for the paintings.
“There was also a painting of a framed county map of German Township, which later changed to Liberty Township,” Mehaffie said.
“The Ohio Arts Council gave us money for Memorial Hall, too,” Mehaffie said. “They disperse between $12 and $15 million to various organizations. All 88 counties are included in the distributions through the WPA project and a federal arts program.”
Mehaffie was appointed by Gov. John Kasich to the Ohio Arts Council as a trustee.
“There are 15 trustees,” said Mehaffie, who is also active locally with the arts. “The Ohio Arts Council is rated number two in the nation in how they support the arts.”