Pieces of an iconic mural painted on the side of Astor Elementary School for the 1990 action-comedy “Kindergarten Cop” have found a home with the Clatsop County Historical Society.
The Astoria School District agreed to donate the pieces following public outcry over renovations at the Uppertown school that would have erased the art. The remodel began this spring and is tied to a $70 million bond voters passed in 2018 to improve and modernize the school district’s buildings.
“It was certainly an emotional issue for a lot of people and it certainly is a part of our rich film tapestry,” said McAndrew Burns, the executive director of the historical society. “I think everyone recognized that.”
“The school district has to keep their mission in mind and they have to be respectful of the funds made available to them to do things,” he added. “I get that saving a mural was not at the top of their mission. Their mission is educating children and that obviously has to be at the top of their to-do list.”
But Burns is glad they were willing to work with the historical society to come to a solution on preserving parts of the mural. Though he would prefer to be able to save all of the artwork, “it’s better than it being destroyed and thrown into the junk pile.”
The film company behind “Kindergarten Cop” commissioned local artist Judith Niland to paint colorful murals at the school nearly 30 years ago. Of the scenes depicted, a nearly 12-foot tall cartoon giraffe is prominent.
Burns was not sure what specific elements most resonated with fans of the movie, but said the giraffe rose above the rest — literally.
“The giraffe did resonate with us, but we were basically asking for whatever pieces could come off cleanly and that’s been part of the challenge,” he said.
Besides the giraffe, the historical society also has a section with a cop character in a traditional blue uniform.
The pieces are probably too large to display in the historical society’s Oregon Film Museum, located in the historic Clatsop County Jail, Burns said. But the historical society is exploring the possibility of expanding the museum.
“We collect things with that thought: That space will not be an object in the future,” Burns said.