AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A mural depicting scenes from Maine's labor history returned to public display Monday, 22 months after the governor set off a political firestorm and spawned a federal lawsuit by ordering it removed.
Gov. Paul LePage caused an uproar in March 2011 when he ordered the mural removed from the Labor Department lobby, claiming it presented a one-sided view that bowed to organized labor and overlooked the contributions of job-creating entrepreneurs.
Beginning Monday, the mural was back on public view in an atrium that serves as the entryway to the Maine State Museum, Maine State Library and Maine State Archives. The space is open to the public six days a week.
Richard Bamforth, of Augusta, was angry when LePage first ordered the mural removed, calling it silly and petty. But he acknowledged the new venue seemed to be more appropriate than a hidden-away state office building.
"This is a much more visually appealing setting, I think," he said as he, his wife and their 19-year-old granddaughter examined the mural in the spacious, well-lit atrium.
The 11-panel mural had been bolted to the walls in the Labor Department building since 2008, when Democratic Gov. John Baldacci was in office. It was created by artist Judy Taylor, of Tremont, using a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The panels depict events and scenes from Maine's labor history, including ones featuring child laborers, "Rosie the Riveter" images of women shipbuilders during World War II, a 1937 strike at a shoe factory and Frances Perkins, a Maine native who served as U.S. labor secretary under President Franklin Roosevelt.
The removal sparked protests and a federal lawsuit that was eventually dismissed by a federal judge, a decision that was upheld by an appeals court.