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About the Mural in the Children’s Department

Animals take over wall in Lilly Library Mural
Written for the Daily Hampshire Gazette by Victoria Bekiempis

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Northampton — Two raccoon pups nestle in a snag.  Meanwhile, a black bear cub — accompanied by a stern mother – shimmies up a tree.  This is the scene captured in Amherst artist Nancy Haver’s recently completed mural in the Lilly Library’s Children’s Room in Florence. Haver, 51, applied to paint the mural after coming across a notice in Florence advertising that the library was seeking a mural painter.  She was one of the two artists selected for an interview, and, armed with a watercolor and pencil sketch of her vision of the mural, won the bid with her proposal.  The contract with the Lilly Library was for $1250.

Although she was formally trained as an illustrator and printmaker, Haver only began painting in the last 10 years and recently discovered her love of mural painting after completing a mural at Baku’s African Restaurant in Amherst.  “I had done a mural at a restaurant in downtown Amherst last fall, and I found out how much I enjoyed doing that,” Haver said, “So I was looking for opportunities to do more.  And, since I’ve done a lot of illustration work of wildlife, I thought that I might be a good candidate.”

The mural includes local flora and fauna as well as Native Americans, and is interrupted by windows, so that the glass reveals the lush foliage behind the Lilly.  Because of this setting, the viewer is momentarily drawn into the natural world.  Haver said the first step from the prototype stage of the project to the beginning of the mural was thinking about the library’s color scheme in relation to what she wanted to paint.  She said she wanted the mural to tie into the rest of the library and hence left some of the original wall color exposed.

“It was really picking out the predominant colors in it and making those work well with the existing color,” she said of the first step.  Next, Haver began drawing the scene on the wall with pencil.  In total, the mural took nearly three months to complete: she began the project in early March and finished in late May.  Many of the animals are life-size.  At times, Haver had to climb a ladder to complete her work.

The final product is a woodland scene, which because it is neither stylized nor cartoonish, does not come off as traditionally childish at first glance.