Herman: How moving a state-owned painting became a legislative issue


Just like you with your home, state government sometimes likes to redecorate its home. It can be something as major as last year’s $6 million Capitol re-do that included 700 new windows buildingwide and new carpeting in the House chamber.

And it can be something as minor as moving a painting, in this case one called, “The Spirit of the Alamo Lives On,” that’s been hanging on a wall at the Texas Veterans Commission. It’s been there since it was donated by the artist in 2009, and now the plan is to move it to the custody of the General Land Office, which has exciting plans for it.

Also just like at your home, this will involve taking the painting off the wall. The move should be easy because the General Land Office also is in the Stephen F. Austin Building at 17th Street and North Congress Avenue. So it looks like all this will take is some tools, some folks who know what how to use tools and, perhaps, a short elevator ride.

Oh, there’s one more thing needed: The approval of both legislative chambers and Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

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That’s why we have House Bill 1644 by state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster. It’s a simple bill, simply stating that by Dec. 1, “the Texas Veterans Commission shall transfer charge and control of the painting entitled ‘The Spirit of the Alamo Lives On’ by George Skypeck to the General Land Office.’”

The goal is to get the painting off the eighth-floor wall at the Texas Veterans Commission and into the Capitol so that more people can see it and some can buy copies of it.

Skypeck, 71, lives in Accokeek, Md., and is a noted military artist. He was wounded in Vietnam and has dedicated his life and his art to helping and honoring vets.

Thanks for your service and your art.

Skypeck’s ties to Texas include serving at several bases here and doing some time at Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio while rehabbing from Vietnam injuries.

“Nobody asked me to do it,” he said of “The Spirit of the Alamo Lives On.” “My wife and I and my family always have been treated very kindly in Texas. When you get to Texas and you cross the line, you feel different. There’s something about Texas, its motivation and its spirit.”

The painting depicts Texas military history and insignia. Mixed into the paint is sand Skypeck scooped up at Omaha Beach. He said he placed no conditions on the donation but said, “I would like to have this seen.”

“This is for the veterans. This is for the Texas veterans and the veterans’ families and your citizens of Texas. I want them to understand that somebody appreciates them,” Skypeck said.

He doesn’t want to gripe, but he’s not thrilled with the fact that the painting wound up in a little-seen place in a state office building. “No,” Skypeck said. “Between you and me and the lamp post, I don’t want to piss off anybody because I made no restrictions on it. But what I’m finding out is that people don’t know what to do with original paintings.”

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So that’s the background of the painting and how and why it’s in Texas. The involvement of Springer – and now the entire Texas Legislature – came as a result of Ray Fletcher, the Cooke County fire marshal and emergency management coordinator up in Gainesville in Springer’s district.

Fletcher, retired from the Air Force, also is the president of Gainesville’s Medal of Honor Host City Program. He brought Skypeck and many of his works to Gainesville for a program last year. That’s when he learned about “The Spirit of the Alamo Lives On” and its fate.

Skypeck donated it “with the intent it would be used to raise awareness about veterans issues,” Fletcher said.

“It shouldn’t be just hanging in an office somewhere,” Fletcher said. “It should be made available to the public and to veterans and it should be there to benefit veterans, not just decorate somebody’s office.”

Correct, says Skypeck. “What better reason for this piece to exist than to do two things,” he said. “One is to alert the general public to the fact that Texas military history is of great significance, not only to Texas but to the United States of America.”

And the second reason is to raise money for veterans programs.

Fletcher said he told Springer, “It would be really cool if we can get it in the Medal of Honor hallway down in the Capitol, so the public gets a chance to really see it. And how really cool if someone would be able to print editions of that and have it available (for sale) and use the funds for some veterans-related issue.”

Cool indeed, Springer thought. He met with Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose agency handles some veterans programs, and put the legislation in motion. The ultimate goal is to move the painting to the Capitol display honoring Medal of Honor recipients from Texas.

Springer also said the General Land Office will use its marketing arm to make and sell prints of the painting at the Capitol Gift Shop, which recently celebrated a grand re-opening.

General Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck confirmed that’s the plan.

“We have the capacity to scan the painting to create reproductions, which could then be sold. And the proceeds could go to benefit the Texas Veterans Land Board (a division of the GLO), which provides services like veterans homes and cemeteries and the veteran hotline,” Eck said. “The GLO could then lend the painting to the State Preservation Board so that the painting could hang in the Capitol.”

Skypeck couldn’t be happier about the plan. “One hundred percent,” he said of his support for it.

Nice, right?

So let’s review: What does it take for state government to move a painting? Three state agencies and a new state law.



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