Renovation work at the Air Force Base in Grand Forks was meant to expand office space but led to an unexpected find: a mural painted by an airman who spent four years on the base in the 1970s.
In a statement released by the base, historian Bryan Booker says the mural was painted by Airman 1st Class Candido A. Veras in 1975 and shows people of different ethnicities working together on maintenance tasks at the base.
Veras went on to a career as an artist after leaving the Air Force.
Some time over the years, the mural was covered with sheetrock and Booker tells WDAZ the wall was going to be torn down as part of the renovation work when the mural was rediscovered.
The statement from the base says members of the University of North Dakota art department will evaluate what it would take to preserve the mural, but also notes the task is made difficult by the fact that it's painted on cinder blocks.
Booker tells the Grand Forks Herald 1975 was the year he enlisted and he remembers it as a time when there was racial tension in the military, which helps explain Veras' portrayal of airmen from different backgrounds working together.
Part of the mural shows people working on a B52 – a reminder that 40 years ago the Grand Forks base was in Cold War mode, ready to carry the nuclear weapons that were stored in North Dakota silos, WDAZ says.
Booker says base records show Veras was commissioned to paint at least two other murals in buildings that existed at the time.
Once he became a professional artist, his works became more abstract. Veras settled in San Antonio, Texas. A gallery on Flickr shows a selection of his art.
Veras died in 2009 at age 56.
A blogger, Dr. Giesel Y. Acosta, offered an appreciation of Veras and his art the following year.