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The Mural Is Saved!

It Takes a Village: Saving the Michael Rex Mural at Library of the Chathams

We did it!  We saved the mural!

Many years ago, author/illustrator of Goodnight Goon Michael Rex was commissioned to create original art in the Benigno Room where library programs and community meetings have been held ever since.  Mr. Rex, who grew up in Chatham, is the creator of more than 40 delightful books for children.

Over the years, the walls and mural have been damaged.  A plan was formulated to preserve the images of this irreplaceable artwork and move them to a new children’s program room on the upper level of the library through digitization for the enjoyment of current and future generations.   

This plan was part of the library’s renovation project to bring much-needed improvements including:

  • Teen Center that offers a safe studying and gathering place
  • Flexible STEM/Meeting Room for technology training and STEM initiatives
  • Expanded and upgraded local history facilities including an Archival Preservation Room and museum-quality displays
  • Renovated Children’s Center and new Children’s Activity Room
  • Business center for working professionals and people seeking employment
  • Additional study rooms
  • Meeting places that are flexible in size in order to accommodate more groups
  • Infrastructure upgrades to address heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical systems, lighting, and walkways for safety and comfort

The renovation project was on hold waiting for the release of the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act grant application.  Regulations came out late in 2019, and the library learned that the Michael Rex Mural preservation project would not be eligible for the Bond Act’s matching grant funds.  Since it was not eligible for grant funds, the library launched a 30-day Kickstarter fundraising campaign on December 22, 2019.

And our community responded!  Organizations including Art League of the Chathams, Chatham Borough Public Arts Council, Drew Art Association, and Friends of the Library of the Chathams rallied their contacts to spread the word and save the mural.  The goal of $6,200 in funds was reached in less than 30 days with 76 people pledging financial support.

Once the construction project for the whole library is complete (plans available at https://chathamlibrary.org/donate-now/) the mural will be printed on wallpaper to be enjoyed by future Chatham residents.  It will also be projected digitally for teens and children to recreate throughout the library and provide similar inspiration for more arts programming.

According to the regulations, the library will apply for the NJ Library Construction Bond Act grant in March 2020.  Once awards are announced, final preparations for the $4.5 million construction project can be made. Actual construction time is approximately 18 months.  The library plans to remain open to the public during construction. For information about the Bridging Space to Place Project, contact Library Director Karen Brodsky at kbrodsky@chathamlibrary.org or 973-635-0608.

Once the renovation is complete, we hope you will come see the library and the newly preserved Michael Rex Mural.  As the saying goes, “It takes a village!”

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