January 19, 2013

Labor mural flap caused $6K in spending

The Associated Press

 

click image to enlarge

Richard Bamforth, right, of Augusta examines the labor mural on Monday with his granddaughter, Pippa Adam, of Boston, at the Cultural Building atrium in Augusta.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

PORTLAND — The state paid more than $6,000 to remove, store and ultimately relocate a labor mural that Gov. Paul LePage removed from the Maine Department of Labor building lobby, officials said. Part of the cost ended up being paid by a Republican group that tried to raise money to purchase the mural.

The governor created an uproar nearly two years ago when he ordered the mural's removal because he believed it presented a one-sided view of history that overlooked the contributions of entrepreneurs.

Hidden for nearly 22 months, the mural came out of storage last weekend and is now displayed in an atrium that serves as the entryway to the Maine State Museum, Maine State Library and Maine State Archives.

The cost of crating and storing the labor mural was $530 and transportation costs were $690, the Department of Labor told The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Access request. Framing and installation at the new venue added up to another $4,850, the LePage administration said. The Maine State Museum also purchased a security camera, estimated to cost about $150, to protect the mural.

A silver lining was that framing and installation costs were defrayed by a GOP group, Aroostook Republicans, which made a donation to the Maine State Museum after unsuccessfully trying to raise enough money to pay back a federal grant so the state could take ownership of the mural.

"The money that was going to be used to buy the mural was used to put it back on display," said Julie Rabinowitz, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor.

The mural's scenes included World War II's Rosie the Riveter, a 1937 shoe strike in Maine and New Deal-era U.S. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, among others.

Its removal led to protests and a federal lawsuit. The U.S. Department of Labor also got into the act, accusing LePage of violating terms of the $60,000 grant used to pay for most of the mural's cost.

Aroostook Republicans, which wanted to pay off the federal government's contribution, fell far short of its goal but donated $2,333 to be used as the museum saw fit, said Sheila McDonald, the museum's deputy director. Of that sum, $2,250 was applied to the mural's relocation, she said.

At its original location, the mural pieces, each about 7 feet tall and weighing 45 pounds, were bolted into drywall, McDonald said. At the new location, a new mounting system was required for the museum's granite walls, but it can be used again if it's moved, she said.

Judy Taylor, the artist who created the mural, signed off on the new arrangement, which calls for it to be displayed at its current location for three years, subject to renewal.

 

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