Updated - Building owner identifies location

Mural removed after hundreds flock to Augusta

Rally rescheduled for April 4
By Shlomit Auciello | Mar 28, 2011
Photo by: Shlomit Auciello Martha Clarke of Rockland, shown here in the lobby of the Department of Labor in Augusta, was one of hundreds of people from all parts of Maine and all walks of life to protest a decision by Gov. Paul LePage to remove the mural commemorating Maine's labor history that is seen in the background.

Augusta — A mural commissioned by the Maine Department of Labor to hang in its reception room at 45 Commerce Drive in Augusta, and removed by the building's facilities crew last weekend at the request of Gov. Paul LePage, is reportedly under lock and key at the same building.

According to a March 30 interview on the MPBN radio program "Maine Things Considered," and a story posted at 5:03 p.m. that evening at pressherald.com, the mural was moved by building staff, at no cost to the state. Building owner Kevin Mattson was quoted as saying the 11 panels commissioned in 2007 to portray Maine's labor history are in a room in the Central Maine Commerce Center building where the department leases its office space.

Contract calls for artist input on relocation

Judy Taylor of Tremont, who completed the artwork depicting a variety of images of Maine's labor movement and its workers' history in 2008, was not present when the mural was taken off the walls for which it was designed, and moved to storage in what LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett referred to March 29 as “a secure storage location.”

Bennett said the $60,000 project was funded with $38,364 in federal Reed Act Funds and several smaller contributions from sources she listed as Rehabilitation Services, Labor Standards, Workforce Research and Information and Commissioner's Office. The mural was commissioned when the department merged several offices into the location on Commerce Drive that houses a number of government offices, including those of the state police and fire marshal. Entry to the Department of Labor is through a separate doorway and down a long corridor.

Bennett said the amounts paid by each bureau were: “proportionate to their funding percentage of the department. This represents a mixture of federal and state funds.”

While funds for the commission came from several state and federal sources, the contract for the commission was the same one used for projects paid for under Maine's Percent for Art law.

The contract describes the mural and states that it would consist of "10 panels depicting selected episodes in the history of Maine labor." The contract recognizes that "the shift in scale from model to full scale required artistic adjustments," and gave the artist the right to make minor aesthetic or structural changes.

"The permanent location of the work shall be: Department of Labor," the contract states.

In addition to stating the artist reserves all rights under federal copyright law, the contract says the following about altering or moving the mural:

"The contracting agency agrees that it will not intentionally destroy or alter the work in any way whatsoever without prior consultation with the [Maine Arts] Commission and the artist."

"The work will be placed in the location for which it was selected. The contracting agency [The Department of Labor] agrees that the artist and the Commission will be notified if, for any reason, the work has to be removed or moved to a new location. The artist and the Commission have the right to advise or consult with the contracting agency or its designee regarding this treatment of the work."

"All communications and notices required or permitted under this agreement shall be in writing and shall be deemed sufficiently served if hand delivered or sent by certified First Class Mail to the Commission," the contract says.

The agreement can only be modified if done so in writing and signed by all parties.

Artists, workers and sympathizers flock to Augusta

Approximately 250 people from all parts of the state crowded the hallway outside the lobby of the Department of Labor at noon Friday, March 25, in response to the initial decision by Gov. Paul LePage to remove the mural from that room's walls.

The lobby door is marked by a plaque indicating it provides entry for those seeking the offices of Employment Services, Rehabilitation Services, Labor Standards, Unemployment Compensation administrative hearings and the Center for Workforce Research and Information.

The room appeared crowded as people filed in and out, about 20 at a time looking at the 11 panels that Taylor created in response to a request for proposals.

Speakers at the March 25 press conference, which was sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists and the Maine AFL-CIO, included UMVA President Robert Shetterly and labor historian Charles Scontras, whom Taylor credited with helping her formulate the idea for the mural.

Shetterly said the mural was "a part of what tells Maine's history, Maine people's history, and Maine's working history."

"This picture gives us the courage to struggle for our own rights today," he said.

While Shetterly and others at the podium outside the lobby spoke softly and could not always be heard above the crowd, the message they and others came to Augusta to deliver was loud and clear.

"Art stays, LePage goes," some chanted.

Many of those gathered in the hallway outside the lobby carried paper signs with the names and ages of workers who perished March 25, 1911, in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, an event that has been called the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York. According to a 100th anniversary story in the March 25 edition of The New York Times, the fire "claimed the lives of 146 people, all but 23 of whom were young women. One of the landmark disasters in American history, it eventually inspired important shifts in the nation’s laws, particularly those protecting the rights of workers and the safety of buildings."

One of those commemorating the fire as part of the protest in Augusta was Martha Clarke of Rockland, whose grandmother worked for Triangle.

"She wasn't there that day," Clarke said. "Thank goodness."

"What kind of businesses is Maine trying to attract, that would not honor the work of [labor] organizers?" asked Mariah Williams of Liberty. "Without them, we would still have child labor, six-day, 12-hour workweeks, and no benefits."

"Gov. LePage works for the citizens of Maine," she said.

Tim Sullivan of Rockland said the governor was trying to divide the progressive community. Many at the Department of Labor Friday planned to attend hearings on a proposal to rescind a ban on the plastics additive bisphenol-A, another controversial decision LePage has made since taking office Jan. 5.

"We need to unite," said Sullivan. "He's not [acting like] governor of the people, but the governor of the big corporations."

While many at the event were professional artists rallying, in part, to support one of their own, Sally and Don Merchant of South Thomaston said they were there as working Mainers.

"We're labor," said Sally Merchant. "What better place for a mural about labor than here."

Future location in doubt

In a press release issued just after the event, LePage said he was seeking "artwork that depicts the cooperative relationship that exists between Maine’s job creators and the workers who power Maine’s economy."

"Artists interested in participating should be willing to offer their artwork on loan to the state," the press release said. "Appropriate submissions will be displayed in public spaces at the Maine Department of Labor’s administrative offices and in the lobbies of Career Centers throughout Maine. Photographs, paintings, sculptures and other forms of art will all be considered."

LePage said the department needed to "serve and balance the interests of both employees and employers" and called for artwork that "celebrates the cooperation that exists in Maine’s workplaces."

While the Governor's Office issued a press release March 25 saying the mural would be loaned to the city of Portland, pending city council approval, a March 29 story by Kate Bucklin at theforecaster.net said that was not likely.

Bucklin's story said a councilor originally open to the idea changed his mind after attending Friday's rally. She reported Rep. Ben Chipman, I-Portland, who originally proposed the loan, did so as an alternative to having the artwork put in storage.

“While it was previously reported that the mural would be subject to a City Council public hearing and vote April 4, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg confirmed this week the item would not appear on the council's agenda,” Bucklin wrote.

Meanwhile, the website at wgme.com reported that Michelle Smalls of Brunswick has filed a Freedom of Information request with Gov. LePage's office asking for the exact location of the mural, now that it is in storage.

Second rally planned

The organizers of the March 25 press conference have planned a second event, originally scheduled for Friday, April 1 and rescheduled, due to an expected storm, to take place at noon on Monday, April 4 in the Hall of Flags at the Statehouse in Augusta.

Gov. Paul Le Page's seizure and hiding of a mural painted for the people of Maine is not merely presumptuous and disrespectful but also illegal and a breach of the state's contract with artist Judy Taylor," a press release said.

The April 4 rally is being sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists; Veterans For Peace, Maine Chapter 001; Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

Sally and Don Merchant of South Thomaston said the Department of Labor's lobby was the most appropriate place for a mural depicting the history of Mainers who struggled for workers' rights. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Nancy Button of Warren and Tim Sullivan of Rockland traveled from the Midcost to join approximately 250 others to show support for workers and artists. Button is an artist and a business owner. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Judy Taylor's mural depicting Maine's labor history can be glimpsed through the crowded doorway from the corridor at 45 Commerce Drive, a building that houses the Department of Labor and other state offices. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Diane Messer of Liberty attended the March 25 press conference wearing a small beard calling attention to a remark made by Gov. Paul LePage in February, when he joked that the plastics additive bisphenol-A was harmless, but might cause women to grow little beards. Like many at the Department of Labor March 25 to express concern about removing a labor-themed mural, Messer was also in Augusta to attend a hearing on LePage's proposal to lift the ban on the chemical. Rose Oringer, 19, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire 100 years ago on Friday. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
The Department of Labor's lobby is a small room of a corridor at 45 Commerce Drive in Augusta. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Judy Berk of Northport and Alan Crichton of Liberty were in Augusta Friday to draw attention to two of Gov. Paul LePage's recent decisions. Crichton said that no individual, even a governor, should be able to remove a public work of art. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
The lobby at the Department of Labor in Augusta. Judy Taylor's 11-panel mural is to be taken down. A March 25 press release from the governor's office said the mural would be loaned to the city of Portland, where it will be displayed at Portland City Hall. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Approximately 250 people packed the hallway outside the Department of Labor waiting room, as those from throughout the state gathered to express their concerns about Gov. Paul LePage's decision to remove a mural depicting Maine's labor history. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Steve Burke of Warren was one of many Midcoast residents to travel to Augusta March 25 for a press conference to protest the removal of Tremont artist Judy Taylor's mural depicting Maine's labor history. (Photo by: Shlomit Auciello)
Comments (7)
Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Mar 28, 2011 15:11

How ironic that the artist Judy Taylor perhaps has never received so much recognition.  He work is on national television and is the subject of late night tv liberals.  All at the expense of Gov LeGage to whom she owes much gratitiude.  In addition, this art work is going to Portland where many more people will see her work.  Isn't that what its all about? 

This is all a show of mad liberals who are unwilling to accept the fact that there has been an election, a change in leadership therby making them a minority party.  The republicans were in the minority for how many years? 

Gov LePage has taken the shovel away.  State government has to stop digging.


Posted by: James M Thomas | Mar 28, 2011 09:21

Well, artists are pretty much self-employed.  For them, likely less about labor, more about preserving art.

For the others, maybe they work nights and weekends.  Many hourly laborers do, perhaps a concept to which anti-labor folks might not be sensitive.

Posted by: Andrew Carpenter | Mar 28, 2011 08:17

Approximately 250 people from all parts of the state crowded the hallway outside the lobby of the Department of Labor at noon on Friday, March 25

How did they get the free time during the work week to do this?

Posted by: James M Thomas | Mar 27, 2011 13:35

It is just incredibly ironic that we appear to be finally in the process of recovering from the worst recession since the great depression because of corporate greed, unscrupulous investors, and grossly inadequate government regulation, and working people are now being blamed and will suffer.  The rich get richer and the poor, poorer.

Posted by: Steve Waterman | Mar 27, 2011 09:41

You're on the money, Sumner. That fact that Baldacci, who helped create this mess, was hired by the Anointed One to oversee medical care for the military at about three, or more, times his former gubernatorial salary may give one insight into how our goverment is being run.


To start with, I totally agree with LePage's decision to remove that mural. Also, the goose that laid the golden eggs is breathing its last with no hope of a replacement. I am embarrassed to read that motto, "Maine.... The Way Life Should Be" Perhaps in the eye of the socialists living in the state, most of whom don't even realize that's what they are, the tax base is subject to being tapped out by fat programs and people like some in LURC who are just power hungry. In the 60s and 70s the 'do gooders' flocked here to help the 'poor and unfortunate' get more so by increasing entitlement programs.

I imagine all of you have seen the sap spouts driven into the maple trees as a sign of impending spring. Well, think of the taxpayers as the maple trees, except the spouts are never removed and are bleeding them to death. So they move to another state and hope things are better. Some don't bother to figure out why they are better, most don't care. Le Page has the attitude that one should seek in public officials who are elected. "If I can't do the job, kick me out and replace me." He will do his best and if that turns out not to be good enough, at least maybe some in the state will pay enough attention to politics to understand the problem, get involved and maybe help fix it. Our state motto "Dirigo" (I lead) should not be referring to our lead in being the worst state in the nation in which to do business. The motto, "Maine is Open For Business" will hopefully become the new one. Not "Send me your tired, your poor, your downtrodden and we'll put them on medicaid, welfare, and unemployment at the expense of those of you who are still lucky enough to have a job so they can draw their 'benefits.'


But I could be wrong........... but I doubt it this time.

Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Mar 26, 2011 07:20

Perhaps Donna your move to Virginia had something to do with the reason Gov LePage got elected. 

Posted by: Donna Hurley | Mar 25, 2011 21:30

I have been living in Virginia for the past year and half.

Having spent the prior 32 years living in Maine I am still very concerned and interested in what is happening at home. I expected a radical change in politics when I moved south but never could have imagined this type of change if I was still living home in Maine with the new Governor La Page.

How in the world did he get elected? Maine...America, state of the first light shed on our country, home and guest to the most important artists of our century and this man has the audacity to remove pieces of art that reflect not only our state but also the founding workers of New England?

I am ashamed and embarrassed by him. Please keep up the hard work that you all are doing to ensure that this arrogant and egoistical person is put in his place by the people that did not vote for him.

Maine.....The Way Life Should Be.


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