Signing the Mural at the Children’s Resource Center

By Margaret Sullivan

For additional information call (608-423-3383) or email Sullivan.

In 2006, several hundred librarians, the American Library Association, and the Highsmith Company came together to remodel the Children’s Resource Center in five days over conference. For most people involved in that project the work was finished on Tuesday afternoon, the last day of conference, in time for a 3 o’clock celebration. For one person, the work finally came to a conclusion last November.

muralMural artist Susan Guevara finished the design of the mural once she saw the space around the windows, after she arrived that summer in New Orleans. The mural painting began on Sunday, continued on Monday, and went through the night into Tuesday. Late Tuesday morning, the award winning children’s book illustrator was lured off her ladder with a promise that one day she could put finishing touches on the mural, give it a title, then sign it. She finally did that on November 18 and 19, 2011.

Returning to New Orleans to blend images together into a richer mural was actually on the mind of three people since 2006. Margaret Sullivan, the former Director of Merchandising and Marketing for Highsmith, made the promise of completion while talking Guevara off her ladder. Kim Zuelsdorf, the former Director of Creative Services at Highsmith who originally contacted Guevara to create the mural, promised to help finish it when they returned. And of course Guevara, the one person who knew the mural was not quite perfect.

This past summer, after being back in New Orleans for conference, Sullivan contacted Guevara and Zuelsdorf to plan a working trip to finish the mural that is a visual response to Hurricane Katrina.

Like most people coming to ALA in 2006, the first conference to return to New Orleans after Katrina, Guevara was touched by what she saw from the moment she landed. Now, thinking back on her arrival she recalls, “A walking jazz band meandered through the bag claim area at the airport when I first arrived in town. While waiting for my return flight I heard them again. Tuba and trombone, trumpet and snare, in an unrelenting whirligig of carnival sound spoke more clearly than any words I can put together. The people of New Orleans seemed to me to have a persistent hope inside that could not be washed away. This is what I wanted to acknowledge in the mural. It remains important to formalize that intent in writing by returning to the site and including the title of the mural, the Mexican adage, "Tambien de dolor se canta cuando llorar no se puede."

Translated, the title means, "Sorrow also sings when it runs too deep to cry." Guevara feels that what she heard and saw that summer after Katrina was the true nature of hope. The images on her mural were designed to capture the warmth and unyielding spirit that met her at the airport. The bright yellow sun beaming over the jazz playing characters originally found in her “Chato and the Party Animals” children’s book dance across the wall at the CRC. The mural was designed to delight children with its mix of literary, musical, and New Orleans icons.

Since opening, the Children’s Resource Center has served both children and adults. Several schools also used the library as a temporary resource until their libraries could be restored. The work to reopen all the libraries in New Orleans is still underway.

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Phone: 608-423-3383