Highland News Leader

Highland re-discovered this long-lost Bulldog mural. Now, they want to find its artist.

Highland School District custodian Dave Bourgeois stands in front of the new mural at the Highland High School football stadium. The artwork is a recreation of the original mural painted on the stadium sometime in the 1970s. A round of power-washing recently exposed the mural. Bourgeois was the artist to restore the painting.
Highland School District custodian Dave Bourgeois stands in front of the new mural at the Highland High School football stadium. The artwork is a recreation of the original mural painted on the stadium sometime in the 1970s. A round of power-washing recently exposed the mural. Bourgeois was the artist to restore the painting. mbraa@bnd.com

During the Highland High School football stadium’s summer facelift, a bit of power washing revealed a surprise that hasn’t been seen for over 20 years.

Maintenance crews were working on repainting the stadium as part of this year’s summer facility improvements, when Director of Buildings and Grounds Jeff Williams asked his workers to power wash the wall nearest to the stadium entrance.

The spray was strong enough to take away layers of paint.

“They got down to the original paint on the stadium,” said Superintendent Mike Sutton.

As the years and layers were flaked away, the workers found the remnants of the stadium’s original mural. Williams said that it is believed the artwork was painted sometime in the 1970s after the stadium was built.

Dave Bourgeois, a custodian in the district, was working at the moment the painting was uncovered.

“It was kind of like an ‘Ah’ moment,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois could see the outline of what was once a bulldog head, and vague traces of letters spelling out ‘Home of the Bulldogs.’

“Folks got to talking and said, ‘Hey this a great historical find,’” Sutton said.

After weighing the options, district administration decided to restore the wall, and they knew that Bourgeois was the man to do it.

Before becoming a custodian, Bourgeois went to school for graphic design. Outside of the job, he works as an artist. Currently, Bourgeois is dabbling in spray paint art, but he says he likes to try out new things when he gets bored.

“I like to work in every medium that I can,” he said.

After scouring old yearbooks, a picture from 1972 depicting the original mural was found. Bourgeois took the picture and got to work.

Using a pencil, Bourgeois filled in the details of the bulldog’s face. From there, he said reconstructing the mural was a process of taping, painting and repainting that took about four days.

“I think it really stands out,” Bourgeois said.

On request, Bourgeois’s finishing touch to the painting was a ‘Fat Al’ name tag for the Highland mascot, which is his past and present name.

“A lot of people don’t know that,” Bourgeois said.

Aside from a job well done, Bourgeois said it is important to remember the impact a project like this can have.

“I think it keeps the community involved a little more,” Bourgeois said.

As he works on the buildings, Bourgeois said he will run into former students who have attended Highland schools almost 40 years ago. He said it is the little details and projects like this that help keep school year memories alive for alumni.

But the project does not end there.

Superintendent Sutton said that the district is searching for the mural’s original artist, as Bourgeois said he cannot take all the credit. The district asks that anyone who may know who the artist contact them so the work can be attributed.

Until that time, community members can enjoy Bourgeois’s hard work. Williams said that it is unknown how long the mural will actually stay on the stadium wall.

“I am just excited to watch the faces of our community members as they walk up see it for the first time and they remember their glory days of playing here in Highland,” Williams said.

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