Shrewsbury – Five members of the Artists Guild of Shrewsbury have combined their talents and time to create a set of murals for the Shrewsbury Public Library, in celebration of the community reading project called The Big Read. The four murals, which are currently being painted, depict scenes from the selected book Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
At various times and days, Guild members Robert Wilson, Marge Needles, Mary Dunn, Pam Haynes, and Cindy Staub drop by the library to work on the oversized boards set up in the lower area of the library. For the past two months they have diligently been painting the four iconic scenes from the book; Tom and his recruits whitewashing fence, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher lost in the cave, Tom, Huck and Joe rafting the Mississippi to Jackson's Island, and the three pals Tom, Becky and Huck with their small town shown behind them.
The mural project actually started this past winter when Library Director Ellen Dolan approached the group to inquire if they might wish to get involved with the Big Read by painting a mural somewhere in the library. After considering various options, the group decided to create not just one mural, but four, which will be hung in the exterior courtyard of the children's library. Dolan noted how grateful she is to the hard working team.
“I asked them to consider one simple mural, but the team really engaged with the idea, and came up with four different scenes they wanted to paint. They'se really made the idea come to life, and I know children and families will be delighted with the murals. They'se put their hearts and souls into this project and I am so grateful. ”
Guild President Robert Wilson helped to design the images, and researched appropriate materials and techniques so the murals can be hung outdoors without the weather harming them. He then worked with the team to obtain the necessary supplies, paints and sealants. The materials and paint were funded by the project grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but the artists have donated all their time to the project.
As the artists work on the murals library visitors often stop by to watch or ask questions. Children have especially enjoyed watching the artists at work. Remarking on the multigenerational appeal of the project, Guild member Mary Dunn reported that children often state “I like your painting” and that “parents are so considerate, always asking if it was okay to stay and watch.” Artist Cyndi Staub reported that one day while she was painting, an adult patron peered over the stairwell and proclaimed, “Awesome work!” Artist Marge Needles said, “It was a great deal of fun being asked to participate in the Mark Twain Big Read, and to participate in the other Big Read events, like the bust trip to the Mark Twain House in Hartford. It was inspirational!”
Three of the murals have been completed, but work on the last board continues. Once all the painting is done, local carpenter Skip Colby will be building shadow box frames and weatherproofing the boards for their exterior location. The library plans an unveiling reception this summer.