The Wescott Library in Eagan will get more colorful this summer, thanks to an artist whose mission is to make art playful.
Minnesota Children's Museum mural artist Julie Prairiehas been called back for an encore after painting a mural this winter on the waist-high walls of the children's area. Her mural depicts modes of transportation on land, in the air and on water.
Beginning in June, she will apply her talents to 11 gray concrete support columns, adorning them with the bark, branches and leaves of 11 Minnesota trees and 33 birds and animals.
Two free-standing pillars will look like the round trunk of a tree when Prairie is finished with them. The others will be painted with murals picturing full trees at different times of the year, including a flowering crab tree with spring blossoms, a Honeycrisp apple tree with fall fruit and a sugar maple with brilliant fall colors.
Scattered through the trees will be birds and animals, including a woodpecker, wild turkey, hawk, wood duck and snowy owl, along with a porcupine, beaver, bear, timber wolf, moose and deer.
Wescott Library is the only Dakota County library with a mural. The transportation scenes on the two outer walls of the children's area were sponsored by the Minnesota Children's Museum, which chose Wescott, the Sun Ray Library in St. Paul and the Hopkins Library to receive "Smart Play Spots" to promote literacy.
Delighted with the Wescott mural, library officials wanted to add more art work, and the Friends of the Wescott Library agreed to direct proceeds from its book sales to pay up to $3,500 for Prairie to return.
Prairie, 50, of northeast Minneapolis, has worked as a children's mural artist for 20 years and has painted murals for the St. Paul Children's Hospital and the Children's Museum. Art for children is "simpler, more playful," she said. "It can be brighter and more alive and active."
Her favorite part is always the painting.
The transportation mural adds color and interest to the children's room at the eye level of a child. Prairie has painted a landscape, sea vista and view of the sky with a parade of many vehicles that includes a car, train, bus, Conestoga wagon, rocket ship, blimp, hot air balloon and more.
Her sense of humor and attention to detail give children a lot to take in. To take advantage of the many figures of interest she put on the walls, staff members Jeanine Gubash-Brickley and Holly Carlson devised an "I spy" seek-and-find game to teach children the names of various modes of transportation.
They put photographs with the name of some of the vehicles on sets of laminated cards that kids and parents can use to hunt for the figures along the mural, said Eric Austin, senior manager of the Dakota County Library. The thinking is that the mural and the game promote playful learning that encourages kids to read.
The library plans to extend the card game to trees and birds and animals once the pillar murals are finished, probably sometime in July.
The Wentworth Library in West St. Paul was just awarded a $4,980 grant by the Minnesota State Library and Department of Education to undertake a similar art project, and the Dakota Library system is also in negotiations to build a play space in the newly remodeled Inver Glen Library in Inver Grove Heights, Austin said.