To the Readers' Forum:
The children of the late local artist David L. Lawrence submitted the following letter to Tina Scott, executive director, and the Board of Trustees of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System/James Prendergast Library Association on March 4, 2014.
Dear Ms. Scott and Board Members,
The children of David L. Lawrence request that you reconsider your decision to destroy the murals he created for the James Prendergast Library building and allow for their proper removal and reinstallation in the building following its planned renovation.
Your plans to eliminate original works of art by a significant regional artist stand in stark contrast to your stated mission to respond to the pursuit of knowledge, education, lifelong learning opportunities and cultural enrichment by the people of the City of Jamestown and Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. As an institution that chose to publicly identify itself through these works for nearly 50 years, you are aware of their direct link to the great history of American regional mural art that they represent. You are also aware of the unfortunate record of destruction that followed for so many of those murals in subsequent years. We ask you to take a stand for cultural enrichment and community self-expression and honor these works as your predecessors intended.
Throughout its history, Western New York state has produced a wealth of creative people whose names you and others honor for their unique contributions to the definition of cultural art in the region. Our father is an example of this, as his works continue to increase in value and appreciation since his death. This further justifies the decision made when the former library directors chose him to create these works of ambition and vision to celebrate a time of great growth for the city and the library system.
At one time, there were four major examples of David Lawrence's mural artistry on display in the Jamestown area; now yours are all that remain. The lessons of history show that such irreversible losses of valuable art are always regretted by the generations that follow.
We respect the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Public Library System's intent to improve the James Prendergast Library for its patrons and staff, and in particular the addition of better access for all individuals. As the children of a long-time librarian in the System, our late mother, Betty Lawrence, we consider the library as a second home. We do not believe, however, that the destruction of unique, evocative, original art works by a respected area artist can be an acceptable part of that improvement.
We respectfully request that the Board of Trustees accept our recommendation to save these murals, and we pledge to do all in our power to assist the library system in finding an acceptable solution going forward.
Charles D. Lawrence,
Cleveland Heights, Ohio;
Lexington, Va.; and