Library To Assist Family Fundraising To Save Murals

James Prendergast Library officials will be assisting in fundraising efforts to save David L. Lawrence’s murals.

On Thursday, the library’s board of trustees voted to help in fundraising efforts to save the artwork painted by Lawrence for the library in the 1960s. The resolution stated library officials will assist as long as it doesn’t interrupt with the start of phase 1 of the renovation project.

Tom Price, board president, said construction could start as early as the middle of June.

The library’s phase 1 renovation project will focus on making the building Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. This includes upgrading a freight elevator to a passenger one and installing five restrooms to improve family use and accessibility. The second phase, which won’t be done for more than a year, 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 whether two murals painted by Lawrence would have to be torn down, along with the walls to which they are glued. However, last month an art preservationist from the Intermuseum Conservation Association of Cleveland, Ohio, said the artwork could be safely removed from the walls. Now efforts are geared toward raising money to remove the murals.

Charlie Lawrence, son of David L. Lawrence, told The Post-Journal it would cost between $8,000 to $10,000 to save each. He said fundraising efforts will focus on getting money to save one mural at first because the second mural is located in the children’s room which won’t undergo construction this year.

In discussing the murals, the library’s board passed a resolution to assist in fundraising efforts, but no money from the construction project will be used. Kris Denslow, board treasurer, said costs for the project are already greater than first expected.

“I feel badly about it,” she said about there being no additional money to assist in removing the murals.

After the meeting, Price said library officials will do what they can to help raise money.

“We will be knocking on some doors ourselves,” he said.

Another issue in saving the artwork is that money needs to be raised and the murals removed by the end of May. The art preservers have a job starting June 2 in another location. They have said if they’re going to remove the murals at the library, it needs to be done before June. It is estimated it will take three to four days to remove one mural from the library.

“It is going to be a sprint,” Price said.

Giff Lawrence, David L. Lawrence’s nephew, attended the board meeting and spoke for the family. After the meeting, Lawrence said he had hoped the library would be able to give more financial support.

“We would be happy if their statement was stronger,” he said.

The other topic discussed by the board was where the murals would be reinstalled if they were removed. Library officials said it would not be possible after the renovations to rehang the artwork on the first floor of the library where they currently are located. Perhaps the artwork could be placed on another floor at the library. In case the murals cannot be reinstalled at the library after renovations, Joni Blackman, library board member, asked if the family has a priority list on other locations in the city where the paintings could hang.

Price said, after the meeting, officials from Infinity Visual & Performing Arts have expressed interest in displaying the murals. Also, it was suggested the Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College could be a location for the artwork.

After the meeting, Lawrence said the family would prefer the paintings remain at the library.

“We feel strongly they should be here (library),” he said.

Price said if the murals are removed, they will be placed on something that will allow the artwork to be moved easily. He even said there has been discussion that the artwork could rotate from venue to venue in the city – possibly being at the library again in the future if the artwork could not be there permanently after the renovation project is competed.