Library Board To Discuss Murals Thursday

The fate of the two murals hanging at the James Prendergast Library is still up in the air.

The good news is an art preservationist, asked to look at the murals painted by David L. Lawrence in 1963, has said they can be saved. Last month, Charlie Lawrence, son of David L. Lawrence, told The Post-Journal that the family had contacted the Intermuseum Conservation Association of Cleveland to look at the artwork.

“We did get a preservation expert from the Intermuseum Conservation Association to look at the murals and she discovered both murals could be quite easily removed from the library,” said Lawrence, a Cleveland Heights, Ohio resident. “They need to be removed in a proper way to preserve the murals. Just not yanked off the walls. That was really good news. They can be removed, and removed safely.”

The question whether or not the artwork could be saved came from the planned renovations at the James Prendergast Library. Last November, renovation plans for the library were announced during a public meeting. The first phase of the proposed renovations will focus on making the library compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes upgrading a freight elevator to a passenger one and installing five restrooms to improve family use and accessibility. It also includes upgrades to the children’s room and the creation of a new teen space. The second phase of the project includes renovations to the children’s room entrance, improvements to the first-floor circulation and the creation of a new stair-and-balcony connector for the second-floor space created by the first phase.

Unfortunately in upgrading the library, it was unknown if the two murals painted by Lawrence would have to be torn down with the walls to which they are glued. Lawrence was a regional artist who at one time had four murals on display in the Jamestown area. According to Lawrence’s family, the last murals still on public display are the ones at the library.

Now the question is if the murals are saved, what will be done with them. Lawrence said library officials have not said the artwork if saved will be reinstalled at the library after the renovations are completed.

“When the conversation started in the winter (with library officials), I was told if they could be safely removed they would be reinstalled once renovations were done, but it wasn’t the official word from the board of directors,” Lawrence said. “I think the community needs to know where the library stands on these things. They have not said one way or the other.”

The library’s board of directors will be meeting at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the Fireplace Room for their regular monthly meeting. Lawrence said he would not be attending the meeting, but a family member will be there representing the family. He said the sooner the family knows what library officials will do the better it is for saving the artwork. The board is expected to discuss the murals during the meeting.

“What I have asked for, and I’m hoping they will do, is at the basic level is to commit one way or another on the murals,” Lawrence said. “We feel they were created specifically for that building and for city of Jamestown. We think they should be reinstalled in the library.”

Tina Scott, James Prendergast Library director, said it is the board’s decision on what happens with the artwork.

“They are looking at all options, and how to work with the family to remove them,” she said.

The sooner it is known what library officials will do the quicker fundraising efforts could start to save the murals. Lawrence said it will cost between $8,000 to $10,000 to save each.

“We really need to have the library say where they are before we go out and ask for various sources to pay for it,” he said “It is hard to make any effort toward raising money before getting an answer.”

Lawrence said the fundraising efforts would start by just raising money for one mural to be saved. The construction for one section of the library where one mural is hanging is scheduled to start in June. The children’s room section of the library, where another mural is hanging, is not scheduled to be renovated for another year.

“I fundraise for a living. I run a nonprofit in Cleveland,” said Lawrence, who is the president of The Music Settlement in Cleveland’s University Circle. “The biggest thing is it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.”

Other members of Lawrence family working to save the artwork include Sara Skillman of Dewittville; Emily Colo of Annandale, N.J.; Wendy Richards of Lexington, Va.; and Brian Lawrence of Concord, Ohio.