A sad field trip :(

Since I’m in Augusta every week, I always thought a field trip of our Capital City would be in order. The historic waterfront along the Kennebec River seemed like a great place to start until last week, when our Department of Labor suddenly made national news.

Our governor, Paul LePage, announced last week his intention to remove a mural that depicts Maine’s labor history, this in response to complaints from “several business officials” (so far, unnamed) and to an anonymous fax to his office claiming that the mural reminded the sender of “Communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

I don’t typically use this space for any kind of political agenda, but today is an exception. This mural is historical, not political. More than that, it’s ours. The whole idea of having art in public places is that it’s there for all of us. There’s no entrance fee, no velvet rope to cordon off a particular sculpture, no docent telling you to move back from the painting. It’s the kind of art that lives among us. It’s special, but not precious. Whether you go to the library or your town office or city hall, or even out in the parks and streets, our public art is part of our collective daily lives, and it ought to stay put.

At any rate, I wanted to see the mural before it was hauled away to god-knows-where. The Department of Labor is just a couple miles away from UMA, so off I went, camera in hand.

Too late…it’s gone.

All that remains is bare walls. While I was there, a worker came in and ran his hand over the walls to see if the spackle was dry. Apparently the mural was taken down over the weekend, not even a week after the governor made his announcement.

The Public Service Coordinator told me there had been crowds of people coming through to view the mural the previous week. He gave me one of the last copies of a booklet about the mural and the artist, Judy Taylor. At the counter was a printout of a local news article saying the mural may end up in Portland City Hall, but at the moment, it’s not clear what will come of it.

Since I can’t share pics of my awesome trip to see the mural, I refer you to the mural page of the artist. And check out the interactive feature at the New York Times to view the mural panels.

Yes, there’s something very wrong about viewing a mural on a small computer screen. And there’s something very wrong about taking art away from the people.


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12 Responses to A sad field trip :(

  1. Pingback: Field Trip: Old Fort Western | Going the Distance…Three Credits at a Time

  2. Pingback: New Blog: Save the Mural! | Going the Distance…Three Credits at a Time

  3. The governor’s actions are wrong, and it makes me very angry. It reminds me of the Taliban’s destruction of historic, priceless Buddhist statues some years ago. I hope that progressives in Maine and elsewhere use this incident and others that are occurring around the country to renew their determination to restore America’s traditional commitment to the common good.

    Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, accurately puts this matter in a wider context at http://bit.ly/i3qKsT.

    Thanks, Colleen, for a very compelling post.

    • Thank you for your comments, Bill, and for the link to an excellent article. Reich nails it when he says that LePage is trying to “erase our common memory.” So wrong-headed. I learned there was a large gathering of protesters at the Labor Department last Friday. I think that explains the rush to remove the mural over the weekend, to avoid more and larger protests. I think many of us in Maine are looking to the time when we have the opportunity to vote in a new governor.

  4. Heather says:

    :( This makes me really sad- a few friends of mine went to the protest last week and I really wanted to go- I thought we made our voices heard but apparently it makes no difference. LePage’s interview regarding the protest was unbelievably condescending. The whole things makes me sick :/

    • Hi Heather, the gentleman at the Labor office said there were so many protesters they packed the hallway, and if you noticed my picture, that’s quite a hallway. I listened to the radio on the way back from Augusta and heard LePage’s brief statement. He just seems so adamant and so unwilling to have a dialogue. If hundreds of people had shown up to protest the presence of the mural, that might say it’s time to have a discussion. Instead, there are a few anonymous or unnamed complaints against the physical presence and protests of hundreds. And that’s just the ones who were the first responders, so to speak. It feels wrong and undemocratic. Thanks for checking in…

  5. Careyleah says:

    I’m so glad you included a link to the artist’s website. I don’t listen to the news all that closely (other than Jon Stewart, I fear)…so I was imagining a very old mural, fading against an aging building. What an amazing surprise to see those strikingly powerful, wonderful panels! On two levels I object–politically, and aesthetically. I agree with your well crafted thoughts! There is something very wrong about this… Thank you, Colleen!

    • Hi Careyleah, I agree with you-there are many issues to raise our objections. I was wondering if the artist was even present when her work was removed. On the way home from Augusta I heard on NPR that she doesn’t even know where the panels are being kept. She sounded pretty stunned. So sad. (I’m more of a Colbert gal myself)

  6. E. Sheppard says:

    I think that the Governor did something very wrong. Did they save the mural? Maybe the next Governor can put it back up. At the very least, this should have been voted on. But I agree with you, taking it down was so wrong. He must be against unions. This reminds me of what is going on in Wisconsin too.

    I think they should tell people where the mural went. I hope they didn’t just paint over it, like many people do to murals. I am glad you brought this to my attention. Wow.

    • I think we’ll all be watching closely to see where that mural goes, Betsyanne. I started wondering if (hoping that) the artist was present for the take-down process, as I’m sure she was for the installation. You’re right that he’s against unions, at least as far as his actions show so far. Thanks for weighing in.

  7. Linnell says:

    Well said! Thank you.

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