Governor LePage stands by his mural decision

5:10 PM, Mar 25, 2011   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage is standing by his decision to move a mural about the history of labor from its spot at the Department of Labor. And he has announced a deal is in the works to move the artwork to Portland City Hall.

The Portland City Council would have to approve the move. City spokesperson Nicole Clegg says it will be brought up at the next council meeting on April 4.

Governor LePage told us he doesn't care where the mural goes, as long as it's removed from the Department of Labor. The mural depicts Maine's labor history from 1800 to the present, with panels showing child labor, Rosie the Riveter at Bath Iron Works, and striking workers, among other subjects. The artist, Judy Taylor, says she intended it to be a depiction of history. The governor says he wants it gone because it doesn't show the other part of the equation: employers. "Were the bosses in the mural? Were the employers in the mural? History is about two sides."

"I think it's inappropriate for [the mural] to be in the Department of Labor when everyone comes in, employers and employees, and they're confronted by one side of the question."

Meanwhile, the outrage over the decision to move the mural continued Friday, as a huge crowd packed the hallway outside the Department of Labor to voice opposition. The artists and union members were there, in part, to memorialize the nearly 150 people who died int he Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City 100 years ago Friday. The fire led to major improvements in workplace safety.

The artists and labor leaders said the governor is trying to censor history by moving the mural. Artist Robert Shetterly, who helped lead the group, said, "It's a very un-democratic message. It's a very anti-labor message, and it does no good for business in the long run." Shetterly says that because the piece was commissioned for that space in the Department of Labor, there is no other place that it belongs.

Another artist at the rally suggested that people form a human chain to block the mural's removal. When asked what he would do if that happened, Governor LePage said, "I'd laugh at them, the idiots. That's what I would do. Come on! Get over yourselves!"

The Maine People's Voting Coalition is questioning whether the governor has the power to remove the mural, citing state law that says the Maine State Museum is the trustee of all historical materials, including artwork.

The governor's office provided reporters with a statement from the Museum's Director, Joseph Phillips, that said, "The Maine State Museum's law assigns museum responsibility for historical materials housed in state-owned buildings. The Maine State Museum has never had responsibility for contemporary art in these buildings."

Governor LePage said if anyone feels he doesn't have the authority to move the mural, "Tell them to sue me."


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