Artist's mural at library sees the light after being covered up

·3 min read

Jul. 25—This month, a temporary decal in the alcove of the children's section was peeled off, revealing Frederick artist Colleen Clapp's mural that was covered up without her knowledge.

Clapp was pleased to once again see her mural depicting a farmhouse window with a rooster perched on a cow's back and other farm animals nearby. It was just as she painted it in 2005.

"It's totally unscathed, and I'm so happy," Clapp said.

When she heard her mural was uncovered, Clapp said, she was apprehensive about seeing it. She was worried that removing sticky wallpaper could have pulled some of the paint off.

The mural was done with acrylic paint, she said. But, she applied an oil-based clear coat. Clapp thinks that saved the mural.

"Thank goodness I did that," she said.

Earlier this year, Clapp discovered that one of the three murals and the letter illustrations she painted in the library based on children's stories were covered up as part of a collective "refresh" of the library.

A decal with bright overlapping geometric shapes was pasted over the mural in the alcove.

C. Burr Artz branch administrator Beth Heltebridle wrote in an email earlier this month that the library staff asked to have the barnyard scene covered with a temporary decal after receiving requests for a "calming space" for nursing mothers in the children's section.

On columns in the children's section, Clapp had painted illustrations of the first letters of sentences of famous children's books such as "The House at Pooh Corner" and "The Story of Ferdinand." Those illustrations have been covered by white paint.

Clapp alleged that the changes violated her 2004 contract with the library when she was commissioned to paint the various pieces for $15,000. She said she was not notified in advance that her work would be covered up.

Clapp said there is no way to restore the letter illustrations covered with paint, but she felt the mural could be saved.

She and her husband, John Clapp, sent emails and letters and spoke up at meetings about what she said was the library's ignorance in covering up her mural.

The Frederick News-Post wrote about the mural in a story published in the July 6 edition. The temporary decal was removed on July 13.

"I felt like we had achieved the goal and, you know, hopefully this will make a difference in the future for, not just my artwork, but for anybody else," Clapp said.

James Kelly, director of the Frederick County Public Libraries, said in an interview on Monday that he is glad they reached a resolution.

After discussing the murals with his team, the FCPL Board of Trustees — which funded Clapp's work — and others, he decided removing the decal was the best move, he said.

"It came to the decision that, you know, since we had not notified her in advance that we would be taking the decal down, he said.

Kelly said the library system is updating its record system so that artists will be notified about future renovations that might affect their work.

Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel