Paintings Cause Brouhaha at East Boston Library

With the first of several historic painting titled “A History of Shipping” by Frederick Leonard King restored, a bit of a brouhaha is forming between the East Boston Friends of the Library (FOL) and Boston Public Library (BPL) administrators. In April 2012, the FOL reached a compromise with BPL administrators on how to display the group of paintings by King in the new library on Bremen Street. Several painting are now on display in the library’s quite room. However, the excitement surrounding the restoration of the first King painting and FOL’s ability to raise the necessary funds for the restoration had the group asking BPL for permission to hang one more painting. In an email to Christine Schonhart, Director of Library Services for the Branches, FOL member Susan Brauner wrote, “Now that the architect has received an award; the BPL Trustees have met at the branch and other truly important people have been trooped through during the first year, could you please consider at least one more of the King paintings going up? Certainly a space might be the small meeting room which is devoid of any ornamentation or community identification.” Schonhart shot back, “As we met several times and agreed to display the four paintings in the quiet reading room, I don¹t think it¹s appropriate to change that agreement and display other paintings throughout the building. We made an agreement, let¹s stick to it.” In a statement to the East Boston Times Schonhart wrote the, “Boston Public Library honors the agreement reached together with the Friends in April of 2013 to display four King paintings at a time in the quiet reading room of the branch.” The FOL kicked off a fundraising effort last year with the goal of raising $50,000 to begin restoring the group of historic paintings. The paintings were originally at the Jeffries Point Branch on Webster Street. When the Jeffries Point branch was closed the murals were put up at the Meridian Street branch. However, some rumors floated around Eastie that BPL administrators were of the opinion that the painting would not fit the decor of the new state-of-the-art modern library currently that was built on Bremen Street and were quietly trying to block the community’s efforts to hang the paintings at the new branch. There were originally 30 paintings in the series but During BPL’s move from Webster Street to Meridian Street something happened that changed how this series is viewed forever. In 2011 FOL received a grant from the East Boston Foundation to identify, appraise, recommend conservation, and photograph the series of King paintings. Two paintings in particular, the Flying Cloud and the Sovereign of the Seas, depict ships built by famed shipbuilder and Eastie resident Donald McKay at his shipyard on Border Street. The group of paintings, titled was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project under the Federal Arts Project (FAP) dating from 1935. The FAP was the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era New Deal WPA Federal One program in the United States. It operated from August 29, 1935 until June 30, 1943. FAP’s primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal government buildings like schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.

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