In 2012, the parents at J. L. Long Middle School found out the light fixtures in the auditorium, which were built by Potter Art Metal Studios when the school opened in 1933, were to be taken down and replaced with off-the-shelf lighting. Needless to say, they weren’t too happy about it.
Of course, there wasn’t much Long principal Danielle Petters could do; the bond money allotment simply didn’t cover the cost of restoring or replacing the old lights with new Potter metal works, explains PTA president Maria Hasbany. Although the building has historic designation, that only covered the outside of the building. So, the art deco fixtures on the outside of the building were repaired with bond money, but the 10 pendant lamps in the auditorium, as well as several in the hallways were out of luck.
Or maybe not.
“Once Ms. Petters made the parents aware that the lights were going to be replaced, they rallied together,” Hasbany explains. “The Potter family lives in East Dallas, so there were people who reached out to them directly. That’s when the Potter family and the bond people came together to figure something out.”
Long officials weren’t involved in that process at all, Hasbany says, but apparently the Potter family and Dallas ISD officials were able to “strike some kind of bargain,” and Richard Potter, who runs Potter Art Metal Studios these days, agreed to replace the lights in the auditorium. “The parents were ready to raise the money, if needed, but it never came down to that,” she says. “Somehow they worked it out.”
Now, the auditorium has 10 new lights, all of which are exact replicas of the originals.
“Not only did he (Richard Potter) make us new lights, but he made us exact replicas of the original lights,” Hasbany says. “He could have gone a much cheaper route, but he didn’t; he made exact duplicates.”
First Potter had to refurbish one of the old lights so he could make a mold of it in order to fashion the new fixtures. “It was a very expensive and complicated project,” Hasbany says.
On top of that he also replaced the lights in the side entrance hallways for a mere $4,000, Hasbany says. Hasbany asked the Swiss Avenue Home Tour if they would donate a little cash for the project, and they obliged. “I took my little $4,000 to Mr. Potter and said, ‘This is all I have. Can you help me?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’,” Hasbany recalls. “Of course it was way more work than he anticipated, but he did it all.”
Now, the lights are finished and hanging in the hallway and auditorium, lighting the way for generations to come. Check out the slideshow below.
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