the rayen mural
The Mahoning Valley Historical Society is proud to introduce a newly constructed viewing stand for the mural that adorned the auditorium hallway in the former Rayen High School on Benita Avenue, which was designed and installed by long-time Rayen art teacher, Mr. John Benninger, and his students during the 1958-59 academic year. The mural, measuring six feet high by 65 feet long, was carefully removed and cleaned by local artist and conservation specialist Phyllis Beard with financial support from Rayen alumni led by Harry Mays (Rayen 1958 Class President), and then stored before being turned over to the MVHS several years ago. In July 2010, the Youngstown Board of Education passed a resolution to permanently loan the mural to the Historical Society.
In 2016, the mural was sent to the Intermuseum Conservation Association lab in Cleveland for further repair, cleaning and stabilization. MVHS contracted with Carlo Maggiora, a museum mount builder in Cleveland, to design and construct a viewing stand to hold the mural on two rolls and allow for exhibition of about 11 feet of the canvas on an upright table in the third floor Anne Kilcawley Christman Gallery in the Tyler History Center. The viewing stand was delivered right before Thanksgiving in November 2016, and assembled and completed in December.
The viewing machine consists of a viewing table with two large scrolls on the sides. The mural is wrapped around the scrolls and allows for a 10’ section to spread across the table. The machine lays flat for the mural to be unrolled and rolled from one side to the other and then tilts upright so that the public can see the section of the mural.
The base of the machine is on casters so that when tilted upright it can be moved closer to the gallery wall.
Funding for this project came from the Rayen School Alumni, Edward W. Powers Charitable Fund, and the W. E. Bliss Foundation as part of The Campaign for the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center.
Benninger conceptualized this mural as part of his master’s thesis at Kent State University. His students rallied around the idea—the class of 1958 financed the project as its senior class gift, and Benninger’s art students helped with the preparation and mounting of the mural. It was installed on the walls outside the school’s auditorium between 1958-59.
The mural can be viewed as part of regular admission to the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center.
The mural depicts pivotal moments in the history of the Rayen School and the city of Youngstown, within the broader national context, from the 19th Century through the 1950s.