As the Boston Herald reports, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree has issued a statement insisting that the Maine Department of Labor mural (removed in late March by order of Gov. Paul LePage), should be put back up in the Department so the state won’t have to repay to the federal government most of its $60,000 cost. She adds, “Public art belongs to all of us and I don’t think the governor should have acted so hastily in taking it down. It wasn’t a decision for one person.”
Criticism of LePage is coming from his own party as well. In a Portland Press Herald op-ed column eight Republican Senators are openly criticizing the Governor for making demeaning comments about members of the public, and they are urging him to take a more civil tone. The column was written by Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Sen. Brian Langley of Ellsworth and signed by Sens. Thomas Saviello of Wilton, Chris Rector of Thomaston, Nichi Farnham of Bangor, Earle McCormick of Gardiner, Roger Sherman of Houlton and Thomas Martin of Benton.
Tea party activists like Richard Ashcroft from Richmond, have sprung to the defense of the Governor. Writing for theMaineteaparty.com website, Ashcroft called the senators the “gang of eight” and “a bunch of R.I.N.O.s” — Republicans in name only — and suggested working for their removal from office in the next election.
The debate goes on… And, in that spirit, check out Marshall Reese’s article on “labor” as the 8th dirty word.
In an open letter published 03/30/2011, Don Tuski, president of Maine College of Art, correctly identified Gov. Paul LePage’s removal of the mural as “an act of censorship.” Kudos to Don Tuski!
Here is his letter:
“Maine College of Art believes that art and artists play a critical role in society. The removal of the mural from the Department of Labor in Augusta illustrates just how powerful art can be: it can incite controversy, galvanize communities, inspire dialogue, and serve as a catalyst for social change.
As part of their arts education at MECA, our students learn to understand and respect process because it is a crucial component of any civil society.
Gov. LePage’s demonstrated lack of respect for the process of commissioning artwork is an act of censorship.
In the original call for art, the Department of Labor asked for a mural in which ‘the value and dignity of workers and their critical role in creating the wealth of the state and nation should be emphasized. In essence, Maine workers should strongly be portrayed as more than an “impersonal cost of production.”’ It was the responsibility of the art review committee, consisting of representatives from the Department of Labor, to select the proposal which best met these criteria. They selected Judy Taylor who created the site-specific artwork depicting the requested theme.
Four years later, newly elected Gov. LePage reacted to the content of the mural calling it ‘one-sided’ and had it removed it from the lobby of the Department of Labor and asked instead for a neutral decor. Art is not decoration, nor is it neutral. It is provocative and should elicit a response from individuals. It is not created to please all who view it. Art, like democracy, allows for differing opinions, for discourse, for expression of personal beliefs.
Art serves as a mirror that reflects a moment in time. This mural captures a piece of history. Gov. LePage did not like what he saw. By removing the mural, he smashed that mirror – an attempt to rewrite history.
This public mural is meant for the people of Maine. Maine College of Art requests that Gov. LePage respect the process by which the artwork was selected and installed. Put the mural back.”