Press release: Maine artists and labor historians protest mural removal
Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 11:45am
(Augusta,Maine) In response to Gov. Paul LePage's order to remove a 36-foot mural depicting Maine's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor, Maine artists and labor historians will hold a press conference (Friday, March 25 at noon- see below for details. ~ed.).
The purpose of the press conference, according to Rob Shetterly, a Maine artist and creator of the series "Americans Who Tell the Truth",and President of the Maine Union of Visual Artists UMVA, is to educate the public about why historical art is essential to preserve Maine history, and why the attempt to remove historical art in a politicized environment is a critical issue for all Mainers.
The painting in question was erected in 2008 following a jury selection by the Maine Arts Commission using a Federal grant.
Judy Taylor, who teaches art classes at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor and is the mural artist, said Tuesday that her piece was never meant to be political, but simply a depiction of Maine's labor history.
Shetterly says, "It is telling true history. It has no political spin or ideology. It's not anti-business. It's about how workers have organized to defend their dignity and rights. It is important for Mainers to see a true representations of their history. The foundation of democracy rests on that."
The 11-panel piece depicts several moments, including the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, "Rosie the Riveter" at Bath Iron Works, and the paper mill workers' strike of 1986 in Jay.
Taylor said people had always reacted positively to the mural, even business people who came to her studio.
"At one point, maybe their grandmother or their grandfather had worked in the mills, so they had a very moving, emotional reaction to the mural," she said. "It touched them in a way because there was this ancestral legacy there."
According to Taylor, the idea for the panels came from Charles Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine. Scontras said at in a 2010 Labor Day presentation: "The first Labor Dayobservance in Maine, held Aug. 31, 1886 in Portland, was more a protest by 3,000 organized workers against often brutal, abusive employment conditions pervasive through many of the nation'smanufacturing and trades industries." Their demands were fors uch things as the end of child labor, an eight hour shift, and health and safety legislation, which still protect employees today.
"Although Maine has shifted from a manufacturing base to a service economy, many of our parents and grandparents worked in mills, canneries shoe and cloth manufacturing. This history deserves to be honored, not removed," said Shetterly.
A list of speakers has snot yet been finalized. Governor Le Page has been invited to speak.