Dorm renovation leads to artistic discovery

U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  — Roughly five weeks ago, a Marvel-style comic mural dedicated to the men and women of Edwards AFB’s Civil Engineering sections was uncovered during construction in Dorm 2424. The mural, which was under metal studs and drywall, is roughly eight-feet tall by 20-feet wide. Next to the artist signature is a ’92’ indicating the year that the work was created.

Each of the comic book style characters represents a particular shop within CE. The first one on the left depicts a metal character melting at the bottom and says “metal shop.” An electrician shooting a bolt of electricity from atop a power line is labeled “electrical shop” and a muscular character shooting off rounds appears to represent the “Prime BEEF teams.” Prime BEEF teams are Prime Base Engineering Emergency Forces.

“It’s like a Marvel character, but it’s [the artist’s] own design because you have the heat shop, the metal shop, the administration, the electrical shop,” said Dennis Echols, Au’ Authum Ki, Inc. supervisor on the dorm renovation project.

“In talking to some of those guys that have come over, some of those shops have either merged together or are not in existence anymore.”

A scroll at the lower left-hand corner identifies the artist as Gregory (“G”) Wilson, the assistant artist as Charles (“Chuck”) Hughes, and Chris (C.J.) Mahon is credited for the concept design. Below the creative team a dedication reads, “Dedicated to the hard working men and women of civil engineering.” None of the artists appear to work on Edwards AFB anymore.

According to Echols, the mural is on a load-bearing wall and may be covered again with framing and drywall. However, the Au’ Authum Ki team has made suggestions for how it might be displayed since the new framing is “strictly for looks.” The wall is already at its required structural strength.

“We gave them suggestions of making a frame for it and maybe putting plastic sheeting over it where it’s exposed,” Echols said.

According to Echols, discovering images under walls in dorm renovations is not terribly uncommon. On the third floor of Dorm 2424 they uncovered a drawing of a cat and mouse and in Dorm 2423 there was a picture of Space Shuttle Challenger. Those images were damaged when the shop pins were removed from the wall to take down the drywall covering them. Echols has also worked on buildings at Fort Irwin, California, Twenty-nine Palms and Barstow Marine Base, and has found other images, but “not like this.”

“This is the most detailed art. Somebody put a lot of time and thought in how to do that,” said Echols. “The more I look at it, I’m just amazed. You see the guy shooting – he’s got bullet casings that are just going all over in a big spot. They really did a lot of detail on that.”

Au’ Authum Ki started remedial demolition of Dorm 2424 about four months ago in preparation for renovations. The dorm is expected to be ready for occupants next August or September.

“These [dorms] were built in the 50s, anytime you have something that old you run into so many unforeseens,” he said, adding that once it’s done it will be good as new.