Library, family settle mural dispute

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Original photo sought to be placed on canvas

The Cassville Branch Library and sisters of the late Becky Fischer, previous children’s librarian at the library branch, are finding common ground concerning a mural painted on the library’s wall over 13 years ago in her memory.

In the fall of 2015, after receiving a $25,000 grant, the library needed to rearrange its teen’s and children’s section to make the best use of space. The end result was the two areas were switched, with the children’s section expanding to accommodate growth, and the teens having a smaller, more private space. Unfortunately, due to lack of other options, taller shelving had to be used for the teen material in the process, which covered part of the large mural, which depicts several scenes and characters from classic children’s tales, painted to honor Fischer’s love for children and their imaginations.

On Aug. 17, Vicky Church and Virlene Bennett, Fischer’s sisters, attended a library board meeting to sort out the issue.

“What was decided is that the family is going to provide us with a picture of the mural, then we’re going to enlarge it, frame it and hang it in the new children’s section,” said Cheryl Williams, Cassville Branch Library manager. “We went through our photos [of the mural], but they all had people in them, so I talked to Vicky, and she is going to talk with her family members about it. Then we’ll take it from there. So I think an agreement was reached.”

“Ms. Harp and Ms. Bennett asked that the board remove the shelving so that the mural could again be seen,” said Gina Milburn, Barry-Lawrence County library director. “While the board was sympathetic, they [ultimately] agreed that the shelving should remain as is. Administrative Assistant Joyce Frazier suggested that we find or take a picture of the mural, enlarge it, and frame it. The framed photo would then be hung in the new children’s section for all to see. This was agreeable to all parties.”

“They told us if we can find a good photo, they would temporarily take the racks down and hire a photographer to take a photo and put it on a canvas,” Church said. “But so far, we haven’t found one. They all have people in front of the painting.”

Church had mixed emotions about the meeting outcome.

“I represented what I thought was best for our family,” she said. “We weren’t happy, but I don’t know what else to do. “Freda [Shelby] Wolfe, who painted the mural, will see if she can find a photo, too, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you can’t see the whole mural. My thinking is, they’ve screwed some of the book racks into the wall, so [even] if they take them down, that’s going to be visible in a photo.

Wolfe said when you paint something, you’re putting your love and heart into that piece of work, so she could understand how having it covered could be upsetting.

“I was disappointed [to hear it was covered] because the painting was something I was proud of doing,” said Wolf, now an elementary art teacher at Purdy. “The awesome part of the mural is that it’s all one scene with all of the [classic children’s story] characters connected. I thought the library could probably have worked out something else where they could have left it uncovered, especially with it being a memorial piece. When my kids were younger, Becky had a story hour there; she was very sweet lady.”

Wolfe remembers working on the painting.

“I would come in the evenings and work into the night,” she said. “I also added personal touches like a Wildcat with a ‘C’ on the Baseball cap that the frog is wearing. I had an art student help. It would be nice if they could work out a compromise [with a canvas]. It’s still not the original, but that would be better than the mural being covered up and forgotten.”

Both Williams and Milburn have shared that the board thought “long and hard” before deciding to cover part of the mural, adding that their options were limited by lack of space, and they had to make the best use of the available space they had for library patrons. Both also felt a good compromise was reached from the meeting.

While a photo is being sought, the library rearranged a portion of the shelving to make a section of the mural reflecting a dedication to Fischer’s memory visible.

“I appreciate that part [of the mural] they uncovered, but I expected shelving to be [taken] down where the lower level books are, and there’s a screw there,” Church said. “But in life you don’t always get what you want, so I am willing to compromise. Hopefully, we can get a good photo that can go up on the wall somewhere that people can see.”

Anyone with a good photo of the mural is asked to call the library at 417-847-2121.

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