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Photos by Rachelle Klemme Jim Formanek, former Wadena-Deer Creek art teacher, shows a music-themed mural Monday in the upstairs of The Uptown, where he has been storing it and other student artwork from the 1990s and 2000s. The art was salvaged after a June 17, 2010 tornado destroyed the old WDC school.

As the new Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School opens, the fate of some old high school memorabilia is in question.

Jim Formanek, former WDC art teacher and current owner of The Uptown, has been storing art students' murals from the former high school in the upstairs of the restaurant.

Formanek said he was originally told the murals would be put back up in the new school, but school leaders appeared to have changed their minds.

The murals, created by students in the 1990s and 2000s, when Formanek was an art teacher, used to hang in the large commons area of the former WDC High School, which was destroyed by an EF4 tornado June 17, 2010. Other artwork hung in the band room, choir room, district office and gymnasium.

John Paulson of Wadena said he worked with the school's insurance company and other entities to retrieve the murals and other items.

Paulson added that he did not have an opinion on the murals specifically, since he did not get a good look at the new school yet, but said there should be some kind of memorabilia there.

Formanek said while two of the murals were total losses, some were in good shape and others were able to be cleaned after being affected by mold.

Formanek also said the murals were important to the school's history.

Senior art students chose mural themes from year to year, including a Minnesota mural, a mural commemorating the 1990s and a painting of the school building itself.

One of the artists, 2002 grad Sierra (Martin) Rach, painted a 9/11-themed mural during her senior year.

"It was a privilege, it was an honor. I personally put in 80 hours on mine alone," she said.

Rach also said she had been in contact with Formanek since the tornado, and found out through him that the murals would probably not be going up in the new school.

Rach said having the murals up would be a way to show what the community has overcome.

"They were part of the old school," Rach said, saying it was inconsistent for the new school to display old sports memorabilia but not the artwork.

Formanek received dozens of supportive comments on Facebook, and said he also had support from old colleagues in person.

"I've had some teachers, former co-workers of mine, say that the school is just basically all white, and they were upset that there wasn't going to be any of the artwork that had been there since 1996 basically," Formanek said.

Formanek added that if the school will not accept the murals, he will keep storing them and possibly look for businesses willing to take them in and display them.

Rach said she would understand if there was a safety issue with the murals, adding that mold was cleaned off them. But she doesn't know why school would not put the murals back up.

"No one's giving a reason why the murals aren't being put back up," Rach said. "I don't think Formanek's ever gotten an actual answer, and I actually wrote the superintendent myself and haven't heard back from her. I think we just want to know why."

WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom declined to comment.