A formal presentation of the mural on Bekkum Memorial Library’s new patio wall was held Saturday morning.
The ribbon cutting ceremony opened the Westby library’s new patio space, which includes umbrellas, tables and chairs, trash receptacles and planters. The mural was painted by Sarah Pederson of Coon Valley.
Kathy Anderson, president of the Bekkum Memorial Library Board, said the project started three years ago, when a sidewalk leading from the emergency exit on the south side of the library separated from the building, pushing the garden out from the building and causing a problem with safety.
In October of last year, the sidewalk and the rock gardens were removed and replaced. The new sidewalk is wider than the original one.
“This is the beautiful space we came up with,” Anderson said.
Anderson thanked the library staff, City Hall staff, Ron Janzen and the Public Works crew, and members of the library board for their help and support during the project. She also thanked Mayor Danny Helgerson for suggesting a wider sidewalk.
“Because of his vision, we have this meeting space and program space,” Anderson said. “We have a wonderful asset in the city of Westby.”
Anderson said Friends of Bekkum Memorial Library helped to pay for some of the patio’s costs.
Helgerson thanked the City Council for approving the patio project. He said it had been fun watching Pederson paint the mural from City Hall, and the mural and patio will be enjoyed for a long time.
Darla Schroeder, interim library director, introduced Pederson to the audience.
Pederson said it was wonderful working with the library board during the project, for which she was hired in late fall. “It’s been a great project,” she said.
The artist said people would often stop and ask questions about the mural while she painted. One of the questions was how she came up with the design.
“I knew that I wanted oversized books and I gave the board two options,” Pederson said.
Pederson said she also wanted to protect the bottom edge of the mural that meets the sidewalk between the patio wall and the south parking lot from snow removal, so she raised the mural and painted stones along the bottom to coordinate with the landscape.
She also incorporated elements of the city’s Norwegian heritage and the library logo into the design. The library’s logo is painted on the patio wall’s west side, offering a spot for visitors to take photos. The west side also includes a nisse opening a door, which is flanked by the state and national flowers of Norway.
Words from the library’s mission statement: “Providing opportunities to learn, share, grow and play.” are hidden throughout the mural.
Pederson said people would also ask how she chose the books. She said the library board provided her with a list of books they would like to have as part of the mural.
Pederson said she researched each book, and the books cover all ages and genres. “There’s something for everybody and if there are ones you have not read before maybe you’ll read them now.”
She noted that while she was researching the book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she learned it wasn’t in the public domain, so she incorporated a mockingbird perched on a shovel near Peter Rabbit rather than painting the original book cover.
Another often-asked question, Pederson said, was how the mural will be protected. She said she used a professional grade of exterior acrylic paint that’s meant for murals, and she will add two coats of varnish with UV protection.
“At the end I like to add something special,” she said. Lady bugs are that “something special,” and they are scattered throughout stones painted on the wall. Pederson said she wouldn’t say how many there are, so children could search for them.
Another special thing she added was a Westby Rocks rock with the word “kind.” “We can all use kindness,” Pederson said.
Angela Cina can be reached at email@example.com.
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