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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Painting Graffiti on Grandpa’s Wall

Children are prone to writing and painting on white walls, but rarely do the kids go on to become professional illustrators. Rarer still is having their youthful artwork saved for posterity.

Circumstances favored Holling’s early painting, but the story begins with the Leslie Area Historical Museum in Michigan. In Joan Hoffman’s words, it was begun by a director who had to leave for reasons of ill health.

Three people now work to inventory Holling-related artifacts, art and writing. Among the first acquisitions were these murals. But Joan Hoffman puts the story best in her own words:

“Holling painted these two murals on the upstairs closet walls in his grandparents' Leslie home when he was 16. Holling was living there while going to Leslie High School. Years later, when that house was sold, the new owners wanted to remodel the upstairs [and] cut the two murals out of the plastered walls. The larger of the two included not only a portion of the plastered wall with the painting but the lath and studs as well. The owners kept these murals. When their daughter grew up, she and her husband bought the house and they continued to save them. The daughter, Lynnette Roberts, became a secretary at the Leslie middle school.

“Steve Hainstock wanted to start a historical society and museum in Leslie. Somehow he knew about these murals and mentioned to Lynnette about my interest in Holling. Through Steve's efforts, in 2007, these murals were given as a gift to the Leslie Area Historical Society and became the center piece of our first display. They were displayed in a glass case in the town's dressmaker's shop.

“Many things have changed since then. The museum is in a different location and it contains many of the area's historical treasures in addition to Holling. but one of the first things seen when you come through the museum door is those two murals Holling painted in October, 97 years ago.

“’The Fatal March’ may have been painted from personal experience. Holling wrote in one of his letters that he once ran away from home and got a spanking. Holling loved rail fences and nature's beauty as painted in ‘Autumn's Return.’”

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