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Posted 03 Sep 2001   For week ended August 31, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 30Aug01

By Kent Larsen

Artist Restore's Cedar City's Old Rock Church Baptistry Mural

CEDAR CITY, UTAH -- For nearly 30 years former BYU art professor Max Dickson Weaver has looked after a unique mural painted in the baptistry of Cedar City's historic LDS Chapel, the Old Rock Church. Weaver first discovered the mural in 1974, and has since spent many hours caring for and restoring the mural, which has been threatened several times by water damage and by the needs of the local congregation.

The exact history of the mural and baptistry is still a little murky. The Chapel was built during the Great Depression using local materials, and the baptistry was constructed at that time. "I loved this building," says Weaver. "It was one of a kind. Everything used in its construction was native to this area. I thought of teams of horses that hauled the rocks and the cedar trees down here and the people who worked all day for a dollar.

Part of the original construction, the baptistry includes font walls constructed of the same stone used on the building's exterior. Above the rocks that make up the font walls, a Hurricane, Utah artist named Covington painted a mural of the baptism of Christ. The floor and inside of the walls was covered with local stones and gems. "The whole thing was built during the Depression, and the project was literally a love affair with the community," says Weaver.

But by 1969, the font was in disrepair. Water damage had also left the mural in bad shape, leaving the paint flaking in places because the water had reacted with the plaster covering the walls. Local authorities then discontinued using the font, but used the room as a classroom instead.

Weaver decided when he first saw the baptistry in 1974 that the mural simply had to be preserved. He removed the flaking paint and repainted those portions of the mural. He purchased very expensive varnish and covered the mural to preserve the paint.

But two years later he had to repair new damage to the mural, from tape used by Sunday School classes. Weaver managed at that time to get local officials to prohibit the use of tape in the room.

Then in 1989, water damage made it necessary for the ceiling to be replaced, and local church officials then decided that the mural, which also extends onto the ceiling, could not be saved. But, once again, Weaver persuaded the officials to change their minds, and offered to repaint the damaged areas and preserve them.

This past Thursday and Friday Weaver was at it again, during a family reunion, painting in white spaces over the font where repairs had been made while a grandson and baby great-granddaughter watched. He also went around the room, touching up once more to keep it in good shape.

But Weaver is now 84 and lives more than 200 miles to the north, in Orem, Utah, so he doesn't know how many more times he will be able to repair and maintain the mural. But he believes the effort has been worth it. Tours still come through the chapel regularly, and people see the mural, knowing there that the LDS Church believes that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.


Artist brings new life to historic mural
St George UT Spectrum 26Aug01 A2
By Karen Owen


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