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SLHS alumnus donates mural sketch

Dick Roberts speaks to the Saranac Lake Central School District Board of Education before donating the original sketch of his mural to SLHS at the school board meeting Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Galen Halasz)

SARANAC LAKE — Forty years after painting a mural in the Saranac Lake High School cafeteria, alumnus Dick Roberts has donated the original mural design sketch to the school.

Roberts, who painted the mural while a student at SLHS, donated the sketch at Tuesday’s school board meeting, dedicating it as a “thank you to the school board and the high school and (the) teachers” for the education he had growing up here, saying his teachers set him on a “pretty wild path.”

At the meeting, Roberts spoke about the impact his teachers at the school had on him.

“My class had great teachers back then. … They were really tuned in, and they were so enthusiastic.” He went onto name teachers who had memorably impacted his education, including Tom Kalinowski and Lorraine Schuler.

The school asked Roberts to paint the mural while he was still enrolled. He had developed an early passion for art and was already painting murals, restaurant frescoes and signs throughout the Tri-Lakes region as a job, so the school decided to have him do one for them, too. His art teacher, Henry Jakobe, was the one to approach him about doing the painting.

The mural of Father Time in the Saranac Lake High School cafeteria, painted by alumnus Dick Roberts in 1984. (Enterprise photo — Galen Halasz)

“He said, ‘You know, they’d kind of like you to paint a mural. Would you like to paint one?’ … And I said ‘Yeah, I said I’d like to do that one of these days,'” Roberts recalled.

Roberts chose the cafeteria as the location for his work because it had a broken wall clock, around which Roberts was inspired to build the mural. The school board approved his idea and he began working on the mural in the winter of 1983, finishing about three months later, just before Winter Carnival weekend according to Roberts.

The painting depicts Father Time and incorporates the broken clock into the painting as the top of his staff. Roberts said when he painted it, he was excited about the story of “The Hobbit” and that the wizard Gandalf influenced the way he personified time in his picture. He said there were “little clues” in the painting about what he was doing at the time. The names and initials of a few of his childhood girlfriends are even hidden among the stars in the painting.

He said he was “shocked” that the painting had not been painted over after so many decades.

Roberts said he hates to call himself an artist, but he was quite prolific. Along with doing pottery and painting extensively throughout the community for his job, he ended up creating a couple of other paintings in the cafeteria — an even larger 30-foot-wide, 12-foot-high mural of a Hawaiian sunset and a picture of a rock band — but these have been walled off and painted over, respectively. He has also donated a painting of his, a knight on a horse with a painter’s palette shield and paintbrush pike, to the Saranac Lake Middle School library, which he made using one of the same color palettes with which he created the Father Time painting.

His artistic abilities and mentorship from locals in the news and film production business, Neil Drew and Jake LaDuke, helped Roberts go straight from SLHS into a career that started with doing concept art and script writing for films before doing film production all across the country and around the world. He has since been on the broadcasting crews for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, worked on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, worked on multiple notable TV programs in Hollywood — “Seinfeld,” “Cheers” and “Breaking Bad,” among others — and has been involved with major movie projects, including “Air Force” and “Spider-Man.” He started his own marketing company in 2011 and most recently, he has worked all over the world from Los Angeles to the Middle East and Egypt.

Even with all that traveling, Roberts said no matter how far he is from Saranac Lake, he’ll never forget the Adirondack region where he started out. He says his wife and two kids, who were with him at the high school for the dedication Tuesday, love it here too, even though they didn’t grow up here.

“I got it all started here, I have to say. That’s why I’m dedicating this tonight. I wanted to dedicate this original sketch to all my teachers, from 1981 to 1985. They were amazing people,” he said.

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