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Rocketdyne Mural Restoration and 60th Birthday

May 22, 2023 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm CDT


The future is bright for the “Rocketdyne Mural” which is celebrating the completion of restoration and cleaning with a ribbon cutting on May 22. Neosho Arts Council sponsored the over $20,000 worth of repairs, cleaning, and preservation of the 60 year old space themed mural which hangs in Crowder College’s Davidson Hall in Neosho.
The mural was painted in 1963 by Lawrence Sanchez inside the cafeteria of the Rocketdyne facility in Neosho. Rocketdyne was a manufacture of rocket engines for NASA, making engines for programs such as Mercury and Gemini, and the Saturn V which brought Apollo 11 to the moon. Sanchez worked as a technical illustrator for the company.
The “Rocketdyne Mural” depicts the future of space exploration. In 1963 mankind had just begun to explore space. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, making history only one year earlier. It would be six years after this murals completion before man set foot on the moon.
The main focus of the piece is a space capsule, resembling an early Apollo era design concept, orbiting the rocky surface of the moon. Its set over a background of space with stars littered throughout the expanse, some clustered to approximant constellations while others spiral together. Earth peaks down from the top of the mural with a satellite nearby and a golden comet is visible in the background.
In 2013 the mural, which is painted on panels and measures 6 feet tall and just under 33 feet long, was moved to Crowder College.
“Bolts were holding the panels to the wall at its original locations, they were covered and then the mural was painted on top. To move the mural in 2013 required the removal of over 160 bolt covers,” explained Sarah Serio, President of the Neosho Arts Council. “The mural was then reinstalled at Crowder College and the bolts covered and an attempt to match the paint was made.”
“Unfortunately the materials used to recover the bolts began to come away leaving exposed bolt heads,” Serio added. A team of conservation specialist removed the bolt covers from the entire mural. They were then refilled using conservation grade acrylic putty and were leveled into plain with the mural surface.
“The 2013 paint repair didn’t match the original colors after drying because they used a different type of paint to make the repairs,” she explained. “We ended up speaking to the family of the artist and learned Sanchez had a preference for working in egg tempera. We were able to share that information with the restoration team and they tested the paint to confirm it was egg tempera.” The conservation team used raw pigments to match the original color and design. They inpainted losses over the bolt covers, removed the previous repair paint and corrected losses there, and inpainted losses due to chipping at the edges of the panels.
Other work completed on the mural by conservation specialists included correcting the bowing of several panels, repairs to the frame, a full cleaning and removal of surface grime, and the final step in the restoration process included coating the mural with a UV sealant to protect it from light damage and prevent fading.
Neosho Arts Council will officially celebrate the completion of restoration work and the murals 60th birthday with a public ribbon cutting on May 22 at 12:30pm inside Davidson hall at Crowder College in Neosho.
“We are excited for everyone to see this mural. It spent 50 years inside Rocketdyne and the businesses that used the facility after they closed, which means not many people have seen this work of art,” Serio said. “Now, with this restoration completed, the community can once again view the mural as the artist intended.”
“The restoration work wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of businesses and individuals in our community,” Serio added. The group is working to finish raising the funds needed to complete restoration of one more mural in town. You can learn more about the Mural Restoration Project by visiting neoshoarts.net and following @NeoshoArts on Facebook and Instagram.


May 22, 2023
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm CDT
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Neosho Arts Council
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