The ordered removal from state’s Department of Labor lobby of the mural about the history of working people in Maine is startling.

So is the changing the names of rooms honoring a good diversity of important figures in Maine history. The building concerned is the Department of Labor, not the Department of Commerce or Management.

I’m puzzled. Why shouldn’t we use public spaces to commemorate and educate about the past efforts of working people or to commemorate Frances Perkins, a secretary of labor, who is buried in Maine.

How radical is it to remember the “Rosie the Riveters” who worked in shipyards in Maine?

As a historian, I was pleased to see Maine’s history and people taken seriously by the past Department of Labor staff who understood the importance of history and of education.

It’s nice to have statues of Joshua Chamberlain and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Hannibal Hamlin, but what about the rest of Maine’s past? I like the statues in Bangor of Paul Bunyan and “The River Drivers.” They do speak to the importance of work.

There’s more, however, to Maine history than that. Some people are missing. There are, for example, only three statues of real women in open public space in Maine. (Quick: name them.)

Why shouldn’t working women and men be recognized and remembered? To paraphrase a noted writer, “Who built Maine, after all?”

If some business people feel uncomfortable with the mural, why not commission, for a different lobby, another mural on the virtues of small business and commerce?

The art of the New Deal, which we can still see in public buildings, portrayed many sorts of Americans and many aspects of Maine life. We can do that too.

Let’s have more history, not less, and more art, not less.

Eileen Eagan

Portland

 

I was deeply offended by Gov. Le-Page’s removal of the murals from the Department of Labor and agree with Bill Nemitz’s column characterizing the governor’s actions as perplexing.

I am of French-Canadian descent; my father was a loomfixer in the Lowell, Mass., textile mills, and my mother worked in a shoe shop when she could, while raising six children.

My parents were not avid labor supporters, but I remember my mother saying how she appreciated the strikers’ efforts to boost wages so she could afford a winter coat. We need to remember how labor brought us out of the Gilded Age of exploitation into our current era where we hope that labor and business really do have equal representation (thanks to government intervention).

I would like to think the governor would be a little more savvy about his own state’s history. I think everyone in Maine would like an infusion of business, but I believe it preferable to encourage collaboration among labor and business rather than provoke division.

Art Morrissette

Biddeford

 

So the governor has received a few complaints about the artwork at the Department of Labor and the names of conference rooms. He wants everyone to feel welcome there.

How ironic that on the anniversary of the Triangle Fire he expresses these concerns. We are commemorating these true victims and the governor is so right, what about the owners of the factory?

They escaped from the 9th floor successfully without ever letting any of the workers below know that a fire had started. They survived to tell their point of view. I am sure the governor wants them to be heard also. Why doesn’t anyone commemorate them?

And Cesar Chavez, I mean come on. He promoted voting and equal legal wages for farm workers.

He thought that they deserved to receive the minimum wage, and he promoted nonviolent boycotts to achieve this. What exactly is the governor’s problem with this man? What other point of view about his life’s work does he want the Department of Labor to promote?

A couple of people complained about a work of art that has stood for three years without complaint and so it has been moved. They are pretty powerful complainers. If the governor feels it is not balanced, he should tell us all specifically what exactly are the parts that he has issue with.

He could add artwork that he feels balances the story. Perhaps a mural that explains how child labor helps profits or how paying men higher wages helps the family or perhaps why worker safety just costs too much.

Really, he should find an artist to balance the history of labor mural. We are all waiting to really hear how balanced he is.

Valerie Razsa

Gray

 

Every time I read about Gov. Le-Page and the horrible comments he makes, it makes me wonder how he got elected and why anyone would actually want to work for him.

He is so mean spirited. I guess when you go through what he supposedly went through as a child you either become compassionate or a bully, and Paul LePage is a bully.

Connie Muller

Scarborough

 

It is appalling that the governor objected to murals that depict a significant part of Maine history and then had them removed over the weekend, in a disgraceful rush, presumably because he fears the people’s opposition.

He should. I do not see how a governor has the right to change the art and structure of state government buildings.

Elected with 38 percent of the vote, LePage suggests his purpose is to serve the people of Maine, yet he writes off a huge sector of those people. “Open for business,” he says. That sounds like a sign for a red-light district.

When someone suggested a couple of years ago that I have a look at the mural panels, I did and thought they were wonderful. Whatever one’s opinion, for a governor’s office to pay serious attention to an anonymous message is a foolish stoop from the dignity the office should command.

Maine needs jobs, of course, but that has nothing to do with art. Business doesn’t trump labor. The tension can be healthy, and the state Department of Labor serves the interests of both.

Maine has quality, effective businesses, so there seems to be a gubernatorial lack of understanding about what would offend them. Equally, there is lack of appreciation for the good many people who are farmers, fishers, foresters and people working in other labors.

This truly awesome mural is history. It is art. It is justice. And it is appropriate in the Maine Department of Labor.

Grace Braley

Portland

 

I am wondering. Who paid for the laborers who moved the mural to its secret location?

Did our taxes pay for that move? If so, why are our tax dollars being spent on frivolous displays of authority?

Lisa D. Lane

Waldoboro

 

My questions to Gov. LePage regarding his dismantling the Department of Labor mural are these: Have you checked into the legality of dismantling a mural that was commissioned with federal funds? Shouldn’t the state of Maine have to reimburse the federal government if it is legal?

Would the taxpayers have to foot the bill for this reimbursement along with the funds needed to commission a new mural? Does state government need to be sure that any Percent for Art committee selecting art for government offices includes representatives from both sides of the political aisle?

If the names of the rooms need to be changed, shouldn’t we change them to names of former Maine businesses that have shuttered their doors or moved overseas because of the burdensome state and federal business taxes, licenses, and insurances, like the Moosehead Furniture Room, Forster Toothpick Room or the Libby Mill Room?

Johanna Moore

Farmingdale

 

While so many people in Japan are struggling to find loved ones, mourning loved ones, getting food, getting electricity, dealing with radiation, etc., Maine is concerned about the whoopie pie.

While so many people are struggling for freedom in North Africa and trying to survive bombings from both their own leaders and now “the allies,” Maine is dealing with a governor who has time to deal with taking down murals.

Really? Is this what we’ve come down to? It’s embarrassing!

Joan MacInnes

South Portland

 

The king can do no wrong. Or so they told me in business law class. So what do we have in Maine today? Is it Gov. LePage, or King Paul?

First we heard our governor, then only a candidate for that office, promise he’d tell the president of the United States to “go to hell.”

After taking office, we heard his response to the NAACP, when they expressed dissatisfaction with his availability for consultation, was “kiss my butt.” Then there was the proposed “secret” gathering of specialists from the private sector to advise him on policy. No public access, thank you.

Now we have the removal of the mural from the Department of Labor offices. It’s gone. The governor’s spokesperson says they took it, but they’re not going to tell us where it is. When asked prior to the removal what he would do if people formed a human protest chain to block his action he replied, “I’d laugh at them, the idiots.”

What’s next? “If they have no bread, let them eat cake?” If key leaders, organizations and institutions are to be treated like this, what about the rest of us? Are we to be considered citizens and constituents or “loyal subjects”?

I thought we elected a governor last November. Looks like instead we crowned King Paul. Oh well. Get used to it. After all, the king can do no wrong. Or can he?

James G. Murphy

Gorham

 

Here are some questions about “The Mural.” Because it was paid for with public funds and was intended to be viewed in a space dedicated to the conduct of public business, who should have a voice in its destiny?

Who has the authority and competence to decide how it does fit and should fit in the state’s public life? And was an art conservator consulted to prepare and remove the piece to ensure that it was handled properly? In fact, was a conservator involved in the manipulation of this irreplaceable piece of public cultural property at all?

Finally, has the quality of the decision to remove it compromised its purpose and condition? Let’s hope that it is not languishing in someone’s or some business’ garage, awaiting its destruction.

James A. Burnham

Union