Mural artist: Hang my father's Bronze Star, instead

The LePage administration has ordered the removal of this 36-foot long mural from the lobby of the state Department of Labor. Artists Judy Taylor says the mural was never meant to be political, just a historical depiction of Maine's labor history.

PORTLAND (AP) — An artist whose 36-foot, labor-history mural was removed from the Maine Department of Labor said the artwork should be returned to the agency’s walls and suggested the state should hang her late father’s Bronze Star in its place until then.

In a related development, one of the private owners of another state building said Wednesday he knows the mural has been safely stored in that building, and that he is awaiting instructions from the administration.

Artist Judy Taylor of Tremont said it was "heartbreaking" to learn the controversy may have been sparked by an anonymous letter that compared her work to North Korean propaganda. Taylor said in a statement Wednesday that her late father served in the Korean War and received a Bronze Star.

Taylor spent a year working on the mural for the Department of Labor using a $60,000 grant. It was installed in 2008 but was removed last weekend after Gov. Paul LePage said it was biased toward organized labor and out of line with his pro-business agenda.

"Perhaps we should hang my father’s Bronze Star for his service in Korea in the now-empty reception area of the Maine Department of Labor until the mural is returned, as a symbol of the importance of remembering our history and not shuttering it away," Taylor wrote.

The 11-panel mural depicts Maine’s labor history and includes scenes of mill workers, labor strikes and child laborers. Taylor said she added a personal touch to the piece by painting images of her late mother and father in two of the panels. Her father is shown as a young Army officer and her mother as a little girl in the panel featuring Frances Perkins, secretary of labor under Franklin Roosevelt, she said.

The governor remains committed to making the Department of Labor more business-friendly, said spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. In addition to the mural being removed, departmental conference rooms now named for labor leaders will be renamed for counties, mountains or something else perceived as neutral.

"Employers lose two-thirds of the misconduct cases held at the Department of Labor, and Maine created just 56 net jobs over the last decade," Bennett said. "While we appreciate Ms. Taylor’s personal story and talent, the governor knows that the Department of Labor must serve both employees and employers for Maine to prosper. Changing the decor of the agency is just the first step."

Labor advocates, artists and others have criticized LePage’s decision, saying the mural depicts an important part of Maine history and belongs at the Department of Labor. A rally to demand the mural’s return is scheduled for Friday at the State House.

The president of the Maine College of Art in Portland said the mural captures a piece of history and that its removal is an "act of censorship."

"Gov. LePage did not like what he saw," Donald Tuski said in a statement Wednesday. "By removing the mural, he smashed that mirror — an attempt to rewrite history."

Kevin Mattson, one of the owners of the sprawling Central Maine Commerce Center building, told the Portland Press Herald that the mural is safely in storage somewhere in the building on Commerce Drive in Augusta.

The Department of Labor is the largest tenant in the 311,000-square-foot building, which has about a dozen tenants.

Mattson, a Democrat, told the Portland paper he doesn’t know the mural’s exact location. "I know it’s secure in the property," he said in an interview Wednesday. "I know it’s in there somewhere."

He said the building’s facilities staff removed the mural over the weekend at the request of the Leased Space Division of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

LePage has refused to disclose the mural’s location. When asked whether it is in the Commerce Center building, LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt told the Press Herald he would "neither confirm nor deny" the report.

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Comments

Don Raymond's picture

Fogetaboutit.

Thank God LePage isn't the governor of my state :)
Don't whine about this state's politics and games, just exit the way many of us all ready have :)
MAINE: The Way Life Should Be! bahahahahahahahahah........................................

 's picture

I think the North Korean

I think the North Korean issue should be address. Even though the coward has not reveal himself, and the lepage administration has not release the alleged communication, I still feel certain that the individual has NEVER set foot in North Korea. So the only information they have about North Korean propaganda would come from FOX News, which has never set foot in North Korea either, so its veracity is highly suspect. Spouting off falsehoods just to destroy the mural in unconscionable.

labor-history mural

The labor-history mural should have been aloud to stay right where it was. LaPage in all due respect is a jerk...

Chris Blake's picture

If the goal is to serve

""Employers lose two-thirds of the misconduct cases held at the Department of Labor, and Maine created just 56 net jobs over the last decade," Bennett said. "While we appreciate Ms. Taylor’s personal story and talent, the governor knows that the Department of Labor must serve both employees and employers for Maine to prosper. Changing the decor of the agency is just the first step.""

If the goal is to serve both employees and employers, then maybe they shouldn't be worrying about something as inconsequential as a mural. It's not reassuring to know that changing the decor is the first step, it makes me want to scream Why is this a step at all!?

It's pithy and direct to say employers lose 2/3 of the cases there in a sound bite. Now they need to explain why they lose that many. I really doubt it has to do with a mural in the lobby throwing their lawyers off their game.

If they lose because Maine has bad laws, change the laws.
If they lose because Maine has bad employees, then improve their education and training instead of cutting the budgets for that.
If they lose because they're bad employers who are trying to cut corners or harm citizens, then GOOD!

The solution should never be to lower standards to the lowest common denominator so everyone has an easy time. The solution should be help everyone improve and exceed the higher standards. We don't just want more jobs, we want better jobs from companies who care about the people they hire and the state they do business in.

Mark Elliott's picture

Chris, what I am reading in

Chris, what I am reading in your comment is this:
"If they lose because Maine has bad laws, change the laws." <<--- DO SOMETHING TO HELP THE SITUATION
"If they lose because Maine has bad employees, then improve their education and training instead of cutting the budgets for that." <<--- DO SOMETHING TO HELP THE SITUATION
"If they lose because they're bad employers who are trying to cut corners or harm citizens, then GOOD!" <<--- SCREW EM!

Not all businesses that lose, do so because they are intentionally hurting employees. In many cases it is simply because they need to be educated as well. Why the hatred towards business and employers? Without business, the "working class" becomes the "stay at home class" and the economy stops dead.........

Chris Blake's picture

Forgot to add

When a business loses, what really happens? I'm sure there are fines, but not back breaking ones. I'm also sure that measures are taken to educate them so it doesn't happen again. That's what I mean about them getting what they deserve. Labor Laws are for business like Traffic Laws are for you and me. They're there to make sure they do the right things. We need to be very careful when it comes to messing with them for the sake of the idea that more business and easier business automatically means better business and a desirable outcome for the people of Maine.

Chris Blake's picture

No Need

No need to put words in my mouth please. I don't "hate" or even dislike businesses and their owners, but our corporate citizens need to be held to the same standard as our regular citizens. I still say there's no real problem with businesses losing more cases than they win, if they're the ones that are doing things wrong. I don't want them to get out of duly earned penalties in the name of a "more friendly business climate" Because that's one step away from Big Boss politics and political machines.

I pay my taxes and I vote for my elected officials in order to get the job done. That's how I help the situation. I don't like seeing those elected officials give sweetheart deals to corporate citizens all in the name of more= better, at the same time they engage in what amounts to politics of distraction.

My point was, if businesses have been losing more cases at the Dept of Labor than they're winning, there must be good reasons, and that's the problem our government needs to deal with. I for one would like to hear those reasons and help deal with them, instead of being subjected to a controversy about a mural which never hurt anyone.

Mark Elliott's picture

Complaints against employers

Complaints against employers that have no basis do not usually make it to the Labor Department therefore it stands to reason that most of the ones that do will lose the case.

I also have a problem with the big mural controversy but I see it quite different than some. I don't believe LePage is the one making this a big deal. The media and left wing liberals are the ones dragging this through the mud. They are the ones that keep pulling LePage away from the important tasks to ask the same damn questions about the mural, over and over. Liberals are claiming that this mural is so important but where were they when the mural was unveiled and hung in that room?? It wasn't important then, why is it now? I'll tell you: Because it helps them make LePage look evil, that's why........

ANGELA CURRIER's picture

??

"The media and left wing liberals are the ones dragging this through the mud. They are the ones that keep pulling LePage away from the important tasks to ask the same damn questions about the mural, over and over"

I was under the impression that our Governor was vacationing in Jamaica without a care in the world, having spent a couple of days in FL prior to going there. It does not seem to me that LePage is being pulled in any direction that he does not steam roll himsef into. I agree this issue is not so much about the mural as it is about the fact that he once again got a thought into his head that obviously upset many residencts of Maine and after a statement went out saying that nothing would happen the mural was removed in an underhanded way.

As to the statment about business loosing 2/3 of the cases is someone trying to say that the people making the decisions at the Dept of Labor are not making decisions is a fair manor?? Why does it have to be business OR the people of Maine?

Chris Blake's picture

Check again

Some of what you say is true. I don't think that qualifies as a conspiracy.
Especially since most of the stories come up when the governor or his staff change their story or its details or outright lie about what their intent is.
It's not undue criticism to point out when someone in public office is engaging in a controversial act for ill-defined reasons and then trying to lie about it after the fact.

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