Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

New mural adds color to library’s walls

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Local artist Barbara Bancroft (center) of Hyattsville talks to Chairwoman of Art in Public Places Patricia Mote (left) and Leslie Johnson, the wife of Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, about her inspirations of creating the three wall murals at the Largo-Kettering Library in Largo.
The Largo-Kettering Library added a splash of color and a touch of vibration to its walls Saturday with the unveiling of a new piece of artwork, a three-panel, hand-felted mural entitled ‘‘Vibration: The Fabric of Our Lives.”

Placed prominently on three walls near the information desk, the mural is set amid an assortment of colors and features a trombone player, Mother Nature, outstretched hands, blooming flowers, flutes and a human eye all meant to pay homage to the unseen energies of sound, matter and light.

Hyattsville artist Barbara Bancroft crafted the mural, which was commissioned by Art in Public Places, a program of the Prince George’s County Office of Central Services.

The three-part mural commission was $22,100, according to Lauren Glover, the director of Art in Public Places. That figure includes design, fabrication, special framing and installation.

‘‘Look at it. Doesn’t it enliven the walls? Everything is much more interesting now,” remarked Mitchellville resident Brenda Colbert, the president of the Friends of the Largo-Kettering Library and one of approximately 25 people on hand for the unveiling ceremony. ‘‘It has a life and a spirit to it. It speaks to me and I’m sure it will speak to others as well.”

The Friends of the Largo-Kettering Library, which assists the library with fundraising efforts and its children’s programs, pressed for Bancroft to be the one to design the library’s mural after Art in Public Places determined three years ago that a mural would be commissioned for the library.

Colbert said she was a fan of a prior work Bancroft crafted for the library, a popular life-size felt bluebird sculpture installed in 2003 as part of ‘‘Birds I View,” a public art exhibit co-sponsored by the Prince George’s Arts Council and The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The bluebird currently stands in the library’s children’s section.

‘‘When we got this opportunity to have [Bancroft] do something else for the library, we couldn’t turn it down,” Colbert said.

Bancroft said she spent two years designing the piece, dying the felt and using a needle to place the felt exactly how she wanted.

‘‘I think that hopefully [the mural] will encourage people to look more deeply at the world around them,” Bancroft said. ‘‘This is a place of learning and intellectual exploration. I hope it encourages people to wonder.”

County Library Director Maralita Freeny said everyone, young and old alike, will be able to enjoy the mural and the library will be better for it.

‘‘The uniqueness of this mural will enhance everybody’s experience here,” Freeny said. ‘‘The children will be attracted to its color and imagination, and adults will be attracted to its depth.”

The Prince George’s County Art in Public Places program was created to visually enrich the human environment, provide opportunities for artists to work on a large scale in a public context and lead to increased citizen recognition of artistic ability, according to the program’s Web site.

Created by County Council legislation in 1988, the program requires that at least one-percent of construction costs of new government buildings or major renovations of existing government buildings be designated for the acquisition and installation of artwork.

‘‘Art is an enhancement,” Art in Public Places Chair Patricia Mote said. ‘‘It’s an enricher. The more exposure people have to art, the better they are for it.”

E-mail Jonathan Stein at jstein@gazette.net.