City arts commission recommends mural for Lawrence library wall

photo by: Nick Krug

A proposed spot for a mural on the southwest corner of Lawrence Public Library is pictured, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. The mural project, led by artist team Womxn of Color, collected stories of historical and present-day women of color in Lawrence to create the mural design.

A mural proposed for the exterior wall of the Lawrence Public Library has received a preliminary approval.

At its meeting Wednesday evening, the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission voted unanimously to recommend the mural, which depicts stories of local women of color. The team leading the project, Womxn of Color, began gathering historical and present-day stories last year to incorporate into the mural design.

photo by: Contributed rendering

A team of local artists has proposed a mural for the southwest corner of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.

Connie Fiorella-Fitzpatrick, one of the project’s lead artists, said the project’s design team includes 17 girls and women of color and that many community members attended Wednesday’s meeting to speak in favor of the project as proposed. Fiorella-Fitzpatrick said she was grateful for the community support and the arts commission’s recommendation.

“There were just beautiful stories from women supporting the mural, and we’re really honored to move forward with the project,” Fiorella-Fitzpatrick said.

The artist team received two grants to help fund the mural project, and it is not requesting city funds.

Director of Communications and Creative Resources Porter Arneill, the city staff liaison to the arts commission, said two sets of city guidelines apply to the project: the city’s mural criteria guidelines and the donated art guidelines. As part of the arts commission’s recommendation, Arneill said it is asking the artist team to provide a detailed budget listing expenses and maintenance plans for the mural, as required by the donated art guidelines.

Arneill said the team is also being asked to provide the letters of support it has received from neighborhood and community groups and a letter from the architecture firm that designed the library. The library underwent a $19 million renovation a few years ago, and Arneill noted it has won architectural awards for its design. Arneill said if architects have an opinion about adding a mural to the building, the arts commission wants that to be included in the agenda materials that go to the City Commission for review.

Last month, the City Commission voted unanimously to receive the mural proposal, though some fundraising groups associated with the library indicated they opposed the project’s proposed location on the library itself. The artist team initially proposed that the mural be painted on the parking garage next to the library but later said that there are technical issues with that surface and that they would like to put the mural on the library itself. Some community members expressed concerns that opposition to having the mural on the library itself was due to its content and that the stories or women of color are often excluded.

Arneill said those present at the arts commission meeting generally agreed that the project has brought good conversations to City Hall.

“Regardless of any outcome, this is bringing a powerful conversation and awareness to a civic level,” Arneill said.

Because the project is within the downtown historic district, the mural proposal will now go to the Historic Resources Commission for consideration. Following that review, it will return to the City Commission for final consideration on July 10.


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