MARLBORO – For two years, retired art teacher David Wells has been restoring murals in Marlboro’s Asher Holmes Elementary School and the restored murals were revealed to the public on Aug. 18.
After members of the public indicated they were hearing rumors in late 2015 that the murals might be painted over because they were fading, residents attended a Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education meeting and asked administrators to retain the artwork.
At that meeting, administrators announced that Wells had offered to restore the murals by donating his time to the project.
Wells and pupils who attended the school in 1970s created the murals. Wells had the pupils sign their name and date their paintings, which feature characters from classic Disney movies.
Wells said that during the murals’ restoration, he added a character from the recent Disney feature “Moana” because children who attend the school now can identify with the newer character.
During the unveiling on Aug. 18, Marlboro school board President Debbie Mattos presented Wells with a plaque to commemorate and thank him for the work he undertook during the past two years.
“I could not be more thankful for all of his hard work and dedication and the time he has put into this,” Asher Holmes Principal Joann Cilmi said. “We extend our sincerest gratitude to him and all the other artists who light up this building for the children.”
“Mr. Wells did a fantastic job in renovating all of Asher Holmes,” Superintendent of Schools Eric Hibbs said. “These are murals he did with children so many years ago and he had such a source of pride in them that he wanted to renovate them so they came back to life and will be here for generations to come.
“We wanted to thank him for his hard work and his effort. He has a business and he would take time off to come here to touch up (the murals) … all on his own time. It was an amazing gift he gave to Asher Holmes, for the second time,” Hibbs said.
“The purpose of this when I started was to make a place where children would want to come to school, to make it fun to walk down the halls of this school and it snowballed from there,” Wells said. “Initially, I painted two trees and I asked the principal at the time to connect the trees and I was told to do whatever I wanted.
“No matter who came, I had this prior goal. Principals came and went, but I just kept painting and the children helped me. They painted the animals and their names and dates are next to the animals and it meant a lot to me.”
Wells showed guests part of a mural where a bird is sitting in a tree.
“This means the world to me,” he said. “A little boy named Adam Strassler came here in the sixth grade and left us to go to middle school. I never saw him again until his funeral. He was a senior in high school and he died in a horrific car accident … Every time I would pass (the mural) to go to my room, I would see this bird and it hits me that this is all we have left of him.”
Wells said he would eventually like to come back and paint a small wing at the school that was added after the initial murals had been completed.