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Conway residents upset by 9/11 kids art tribute being covered

"A lot of veterans see this and connect to this," said one 21-year veteran in Conway. "It's disgraceful, honestly. I mean, they have so many other options."

CONWAY, Ark. — Two decades ago a group of kids in Conway, with the help of their families, created a 9/11 tribute. 

It's a collection of tile artwork honoring those who lost their lives in the American tragedy engraved in the brick of the old city hall building. 

Now the art is being covered up as part of a new building project. 

"This is much more than just hands on the wall; it's a memorial honoring the lives that were lost in 9/11," said Dillynn Boyd as crews drilled wood over the corners of the art. 

His drawing of a small green hand sits in the middle of other colorful kids drawings.

"I was only one. So, my mother has told me the story of it, but my sister was four when she did hers, so you know, it's kind of a family memory of us doing those after 9/11," said Boyd. 

George Kenner is a 21-year retired veteran who founded Conway Veterans.

"A lot of this is very patriotic, a lot of veterans see this and connect to this. It's disgraceful. Honestly. I mean, they have so many other options," said Kenner. 

The art is being covered up because of a renovation project by Conway Corporation, who bought the building from the city. 

In a statement to THV11 News, Conway Corp says: 

"The tile art installation has been there for more than 20 years and are tiles are deteriorating. As we worked with our architect, we looked at trying to remove them. However they crumble when we try to do anything with them. As a result, we made the decision to cover them.

The tiles will be preserved in the wall. The joists are being placed so that none of the tiles will be damaged. We have photographed the tiles and plan to have something displayed telling the story of the building and the mural."

This project was announced in 2017. 

In 2018, Conway Corp entered a memorandum of understanding with the city to assume maintenance and management of the Conway City Hall to repurpose it as the Arnold Innovation Center. 

It will include co-working space, office suites and seminar facilities. Plans for the redesigned facility were presented at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in 2019. 

Conway Corp deferred the project from their 2020 budget to their 2021 budget when the pandemic hit.

"You save it, people can still see it. It just doesn't fit their narrative, unfortunately," said Kenner. 

We spoke with another Conway resident outside the old building, Dr. Phillip Fletcher. 

"Any time you cover up something or remove something an individual can feel as if they're not being seen. They're not being recognized," said Fletcher. 

The steel bars across the art tile is a symbol to those who feel like the tribute's honor is being imprisoned. 

"I hope that Conway Corp can realize the meaning behind this and find some kind of resolution rather than just covering it up, cause it's worth saving," said Boyd. 

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