Painting underway on women of color mural at Lawrence Public Library

photo by: Kim Callahan

Addie Mehl, of Lawrence, works on a portrait of her grandmother, Tomiko Mehl, on a mural celebrating women of color at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Tomiko Mehl came to the United States during the Korean War as a Japanese war bride and lived in Lawrence for more than 30 years.

Updated at 4:13 p.m. Saturday

A mural depicting women of color is well underway on an exterior wall of the Lawrence Public Library.

The vividly colored “Wak’ó Mujeres Phụ nữ Women Mural” spans much of the library’s lower south wall and celebrates women of color past and present who made noteworthy contributions to the area’s history and culture. The women depicted on the mural were chosen through a nomination process.

Early Friday evening, Lawrence resident Addie Mehl was working on a portrait of her grandmother, the late Tomiko Mehl, who, unbeknownst to Addie Mehl, was nominated by others to be included in the mural.

“She was a Japanese war bride who came over during the Korean War,” Mehl said of her grandmother.

Tomiko Mehl ended up spending more than 30 years in Lawrence and had three sons who went to the University of Kansas.

photo by: Kim Callahan

A mural honoring women of color, shown Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, is well underway at the Lawrence Public Library. The City Commission approved the mural in July, and painting began earlier this month.

“She played a grandmotherly role for many immigrant students coming to KU and prepared traditional Japanese dinners for them so they would feel more comfortable here,” Addie Mehl said.

Tomiko Mehl is one of two Japanese women on the mural, which also will have an oral history component that tells the stories of the 20-plus women depicted.

“We will have a grand reveal of the stories at our mural completion ribbon-cutting celebration,” said Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, mural project organizer. The date for that event has not been determined yet. The mural itself is expected to be done by the end of September, weather permitting.

Painting on the mural, which was funded by a variety of grants, began in recent weeks with public sessions, but is now at a stage where only designers are working on it, Addie Mehl said.

After some controversy related to putting a mural on the new library building at 707 Vermont St., the Lawrence City Commission voted, 4-1, on July 10, with Mayor Stuart Boley dissenting, to accept a request from the group Womxn of Color to donate and install the mural on the ground-level concrete wall.

The mural group will be responsible for the mural’s maintenance. On Oct. 21, the group will hold an all-ages community party, complete with kids activities, as a fundraiser toward future maintenance. The event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. at Lucia Beer Garden & Grill, 1016 Massachusetts St.

“We are raising funds for future mural maintenance. We want this mural to be taken care of; we are thinking ahead,” Fiorella Fitzpatrick said. Checks can be made out to The Lawrence Corporation for the Advancement of the Visual Arts (The Lawrence Percolator), which will hold the mural’s maintenance funds.

photo by: Kim Callahan

A detail from the west side of the women of color mural on the Lawrence Public Library as seen Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

photo by: Kim Callahan

A detail from the women of color mural on the Lawrence Public Library as seen Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

photo by: Kim Callahan

A detail from the women of color mural on the Lawrence Public Library as seen Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.


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