Maine labor mural goes back on display Monday in Augusta

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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.

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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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