Maine labor mural goes back on display Monday in Augusta

Imbrogno Photography photo courtesy of Judy Taylor Studio

In 2011 Maine Gov. Paul LePage ordered the removal of this 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor headquarters building in Augusta.

AUGUSTA — The mural that Gov. Paul LePage ordered taken off a wall at the Department of Labor offices will be publicly displayed starting Monday morning.

LePage angered Democrats and labor activists when he ordered the 11-panel artwork taken down shortly after he took office in January 2011. The mural depicts scenes from Maine's labor history, and LePage said he had received complaints that the artwork was anti-business.

LePage had refused to allow the mural to be seen after that, but always promised that it eventually would be put on display.

Activists had sued the state government in an effort to force LePage to display the mural again, and as recently as last month were asking Democratic legislators to intervene. A federal appeals court affirmed the LePage administration's right to take the mural down.

One of the plaintiffs, Robert Shetterly, told the Bangor Daily News that although the lawsuit called for the mural to be displayed in its original setting, activists hoped for a compromise that would allow it to be shown in another place, perhaps the State of Maine Museum.

That's where it will be shown starting Monday, in the state Cultural Building, which houses the museum.

Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette and Maine State Museum Director Bernard Fishman announced Sunday that the mural depicting scenes in Maine’s labor history will be officially hung in the atrium of the Cultural Building that houses the Maine State Museum.

The mural will be on public view beginning Monday.

Paquette and Fishman will make brief remarks at 8:30 a.m. in the atrium of the Cultural Building.

The announcement that the mural will be displayed came in a news release from Julie Rabinowitz, communication director of the state Department of Labor.

The main facility of the Maine State Museum is normally closed on Mondays, but will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 14.

“We are thrilled to make the mural available, as Governor LePage always promised, to the people of Maine now that the litigation has ended,” Paquette said. “Our goal has always been to find a space that can fit the 33-foot work and also provide the security it now needs as a famous piece of art.”

“The museum has the space, the expertise, and the security to best house this work of art," Paquette said in the news release. "It is also far more accessible and more public than the lobby of the labor offices. More people, especially students who visit the museum, will be able to see the mural than ever before.”

According to the news release, the artist who created the mural, Judy Taylor, supports the state's move to display the work in the atrium.

Since 2011, LePage gave several reasons for having the mural taken down. The most cited reason was an anonymous letter he received from a businessman who complained about the mural and compared it to North Korean propaganda.

The Bangor Daily News last month covered a talk in which Taylor asserted that she accurately depicted state labor history. She said the mural was not a work of propaganda.

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If this is to be displayed

If this is to be displayed the museum is a good place for it. Think for a minute the impression that mural made on any business representative who entertained the idea of either opening or expanding a business in Maine. This mural did not set the right image of labor-business relation in Maine. With that mural and the general publicity Maine receives about being so unfriendly to business (number 50 of 50 as being business friendly in National publications) does anyone wonder why the Maine economy is so slow? Many people who do not like Governor Lepage have trouble looking beyond his political party listing.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Good post,Ray

Just think how less controversial this would have been for Lepage and our state if he would have simply come out in public and said," I've concluded that the mural in the conference room is not conducive for proper labor negotiations so I'm having it transferred to a place where it will have the proper appreciation and exposure it deserves. END OF STORY!!!! Dah?

 's picture

I find the depictions in this

I find the depictions in this art kinda dark. Yes, the collective labor movment in Maine was a part of our history. The artist stated she wanted the mural to be "warm." To say this is as an unbiased view of Maine Labor, is a stretch. It left out conspicuously, the genious of Maine worker s whose inventions literally changed the world.
I had never seen the "art" before this. Knowing Maine history, as I do, I thought Gov LePages' decision the correct one. Shouldn t Maine Labor want a celebration of our history?

 's picture

Mr. Lepage's boo boo.

The mural should be back where it was before Mr. Lepage took office. What are you people talking about? Of course it was his fault. Not only did he steal it from the State of Maine he hid it so no one could find it. The only reason he is allowing it to be displayed because he is trying to do some butt kissing because he knows people want him out of office. Won't work with me. He still needs to be fired. He and his staff is a disgrace to the state of Maine.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

It wasn't our Governors fault......

I guess the real culprit in this case should be the so called businessman, who sent the letter to the Governor to complain. Where did this "Wing-nut" come from? Has he been sitting in the wings his whole life just waiting for Gov. Lepage (his hero), to arrive in office. Or has this guy sent the same letter to every Governor until finding one just stupid enough to respond to it? Personally I feel it's more likely one of these scenarios, the guy is from out of state, and decided that we should be more like Connecticut or someplace, and not glamorize the working people. Or LePage just made this whole letter thing up, in an attempt to gain the respect and admiration of "Big Business".
I guess in the end this whole thing took a different turn than he expected, the mural is, after all, a part of history now, it's being displayed in a better location, and "Boss Tweed", I mean Paul LePage, has once again, displayed his total disrespect for the people of Maine. I guess everything is back to normal, well as normal as it gets with LePage in office.....


The right thing

You'd like to think the governor was doing the right thing and keeping his word in displaying the mural but apparently the mural was funded by Federal funds with the condition that it be displayed publicly and the Feds made it clear they would withhold certain other funds if the state did not comply with those conditions. And I'm reading that the mural has been damaged along with our reputation and our image in the unflattering press coverage this issue has received. One good thing has happened though. The mural is now not only famous world wide but historical too. No one even knew it was there before and now it is a part of Maine history.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

This was hardly a Lepage boondoggle...

you are correct, this was a waste of taxpayers money. But it was certainly not our Governor's fault.

Who could have imagined the drama the simple removal of artwork in a government building would have created...and the expense.

A lot of Mainer's thought it was a good call; and it was upheld in the courts after much taxpayer's expense to defend and uphold our Governor's decision.

AL PELLETIER's picture

And this is how the state cuts expenses?

How much money in legal expenses has this Lepage boondoggle cost us Maine taxpayers?
Deny the poor and needy and pay the lawyers. How stupid is this?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Al ? 15:50 hst Sundsy Do us

Al ? 15:50 hst Sundsy
Do us all a favor and ask him . The dolt has a suggestion box funded by you , ME taxpayers , much like his health care plan , Dirigo ® . Whether he is open to taking and reponding to actual written questions is , in itself , a very open matter try --> <-- Can't hurt to try . Be brave . His AG ( Solicitor General - a lawyer ) doesn't like him , though . They are , and have been . at odds with each other ever since Paul was elected and proceded to diss and try and dis - enfranchise all unionized ME State employess
Our Governor in Hawai'i and his ( former - now U S Senator ) Lt. Gov respond and reply and actually get positive and helpful things done for us . You can ask them anything . Our U S Senators are the same way
We are all democrats , though , here in the home of our native son , Barack Hussein Obama
/s Steve , Hawai'i •

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Unbelievably stupid.

Maybe the Sun Journal could follow up this story with the actual dollar amount the State has paid out in court costs. That would be an eye opener, for sure.

GARY SAVARD's picture

And who brought the matter to

And who brought the matter to court? Not Lepage. The mural belongs in a museum or a union hall. Not in a building that serves as a meeting place to deal with employer/employee issues.

GARY SAVARD's picture

And who brought the matter to

And who brought the matter to court? Not Lepage. The mural belongs in a museum or a union hall. Not in a building that serves as a meeting place to deal with employer/employee issues.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Not in a building that serves:

Gary Savard, a building that serves as a meeting place between employer/employee issues, is the perfect place to show how far we all came, from hell and back, the workers of Maine and in most cases our now country are getting a screwing. And our Gov. sold us all down the river when products from away are ad have flooded the market, to the loss of our jobs and our self respect. As for taking it to court many of us out here think the court made a call based on our new God LePage rights as Governor. Bottom line if it was removed, because of a letter from a so called person that failed to place his/her name on the letter. Maybe LePage mailed it to himself, he is one of those people that would cut all our thoats, if he could make a buck. I truly feel his actions were out of line and hope he goes away the next election.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Joanne , 4:04 pm hst Sunday

Joanne , 4:04 pm hst Sunday ,
Just perhaps. .possibly & maybe . Chances are . . ..
It's all a matter of public record : his salary , his Attorney General 's salary , his private counsel's ( if he retains one ) salary per hour . Time spent on this matter , the quality of work --- time x money x quality = ?
F O I A actually means " Freedom of Information Act "
ref :
/s Steve , former Ombudsman


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