Library Murals Deserve A Chance

To the Readers’ Forum:

I attended the public meeting in the library on March 4 to listen to the details of the renovation project at the library. My intention was to learn how the two David Lawrence wall murals would be cared for during construction. I was shocked to learn the plan is to destroy them during construction.

It is difficult for me to believe that an architectural firm, the board of trustees of the library and the administration of the library place so little value on public art that has been a part of the library’s environment for decades. It is disheartening to learn that no plan was finalized to save or even to document the murals existence, or even to contact heirs of the artist for consultation on possible options. Apparently, the plan was to move on the construction date approaching on April 14 and that no one would notice the murals absence. This is bothersome coming from a major community anchor of cultural heritage. The mission statement from reads: ”The mission of the James Prendergast Library is to provide access to information resources, staff, facilities and services that respond to the pursuit of knowledge, education, lifelong learning opportunities and cultural enrichment by the people of the city of Jamestown and Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.”

The artist David Lawrence is a well-known and respected regional artist who created a number of murals in Chautauqua County and these two at the library are, to my knowledge, the only ones surviving.

The presented plan of renovation looks good for the library with the glaring exception of the mural destruction. I would hope that in the time remaining before construction some dialogue between the artists heirs and the library can resolve the issue and save the murals for those interested in preserving our heritage.

The murals are painted on canvas and glued to the wall. There are processes used to remove these kinds of murals. This is an expensive procedure but then if this issue was approached from the beginning of the project regional or even national funding surely would have been available. Public art has a rich history of how it has been treated by the entities involved in its care; some examples are magnificent and then there are those pieces that disappear. All art requires each generation to decide what to save and what to discard. Hopefully, these murals will be saved.

William Disbro

Professor of Art, retired