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Archive for Thursday, September 9, 1993

WORK ON MURAL PROJECT GETS TEMPORARY BRUSH-OFF

September 9, 1993

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Dancing twins, a human totem and an Aztec artist will have to wait at least another week to take their places alongside a downtown furniture store.

"Guardians of the Arts," a community mural planned during the Harvest of Arts beginning Sept. 24, still awaits approval from the city's Historic Resources Commission before painting can begin on the north wall of Johnson Furniture, 722 Mass.

Volunteer work had been scheduled to begin Wednesday, but Lawrence city commissioners made their approval of the project Tuesday contingent upon historical review.

Dave Loewenstein, coordinator of the project, said the brief delay might actually be a good idea. Painting could begin Sept. 19, and be completed within a month.

"You don't want this just to appear out of nowhere," said Loewenstein, who has painted a half dozen murals in New York and Lawrence, including one covering a wall behind Quinton's Bar & Deli, 615 Mass. "There are appropriate procedures just to make sure that things that are out in the public, and in public view, are discussed."

The mural will be 15-by-25 feet, covering most of the gray, spray-concrete wall on the north side of Johnson Furniture. The wall is in a tree-shaded alleyway.

Larry Johnson, company president, said he supported the "innovative" project.

"It's better than looking at a barren, plain wall," he said. "At least it makes you stop and think, and make your own interpretation."

No public money will be spent on the project, Loewenstein said. Eleven local volunteers -- ranging in age from 11 to mid-30s, and from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds -- spent six weeks developing the design, after traveling to Topeka and Atchison to observe other community murals.

The design uses "larger than life" figures to depict Lawrence's diverse art scene, Loewenstein said. On the left, representing theater and music, are two dancers influenced by New York artist Keith Haring. In the center, a totem offers a hybrid of African sculpture styles, depicting music. On the right, the "plastic arts" of painting, sculpture, ceramics and metalsmithing are relayed through a figure influenced by Aztec drawings.

"Diversity -- that was the idea," he said. "It was to cross historical boundaries, cultural boundaries and to be really inclusive."

Local businesses and individuals have donated paint, scaffolding and brushes for the project, said Wendy Bantam, director of the Harvest of Arts.

The second-annual event, which spans 10 days and includes theater, musical performances and a crafts fair, is scheduled to run Sept. 24 to Oct. 3.

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