Mural Painted by ‘70s Teens Still Unites Neighbors

Volunteers maintain Forest Lane wall art 45 years after debut

A sunny, Texas-warm spring day found Crystal Wilson and Jill Cartwright painstakingly brushing new paint over faded artwork on a wall that stretches along a swath of Forest Lane.

Wilson is out almost every weekend  — her car pulled up near the sidewalk so she can easily reach her paints and brushes, radio keeping her company. 

“I needed help with some of the detail work, so I asked Jill to come help me,” she explained as she touched up some bright orange flames.

It’s amazing; it still excites people, still attracts people still brings us all together in spite of what is going on in the world around us. That means something.

Jill Cartwright

Cartwright sat on an overturned milk crate a few feet down, painstakingly sprucing up another section of the illustration.

The wall, which stretches from Midway Road to Snow White Drive and then from Snow White Drive to almost Rosser Road, has survived a neighbor in the early 2000s who wasn’t a fan of the public art and, more recently, an out of control vehicle that plowed into it.

The wall was borne from a desire to make an old beige brick wall less of a blank slate for taggers — all the way back in the 1970s. In 1976, according to AIA Dallas, W.T. White High School art teacher Mary Beth Neale encouraged her students to create a design and then paint a mural over the wall, turning the eyesore into public art.

But nobody imagined it would be there decades later.

The fact that the wall is still here, still has fans, and still has volunteers willing to maintain the artwork that was first painted by high schoolers 45 years ago doesn’t surprise Cartwright, though.

“See, that’s what this wall does. It brings people, a community together,” she said. “For most of us, it is a symbol of our youth. It was the meeting place, a location, a point of interest, and now a historical marker, I hope. It involved an art teacher at a high school and a bunch of students who were able to transform a wall of graffiti into a piece of art. It’s amazing; it still excites people, still attracts people, still brings us all together in spite of what is going on in the world around us. That means something.”


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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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