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New mural of early Lodi ‘keeps us connected with our past’

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Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:55 am, Sat Aug 25, 2012.

While painting a mural of the former Lodi Public Library, Tony Segale reminisced about going to storytimes as a kid and researching and writing his high school papers at the building on Pine Street.

The Lodi artist spent a month painting a large mural of the original Lodi library, which is now home to Lodi City Council meetings as Carnegie Forum. He drew the mural from a 1910 picture that included members of the town gathering on the front steps to dedicate the building.

His artwork was unveiled Friday night at the current library on Locust Street, at a reception for donors who contributed to the art piece.

Donor Candice Drummond said she was impressed with the detail and attention to history in the mural. The Lodi native was one of more than 64 donors to contribute to the project.

"It keeps us connected with our past," Drummond said.

The mural project's goal was to raise funds for the second phase of renovations at the library, which includes the adult fiction and non-fiction section of the library. Donors contributed $16,000 and will have their names on a plaque under the artwork.

"Throughout this process, our goal has been honoring our past to enhance the future of the Lodi Public Library," said Helen Gross, who organized the mural project.

The three Lodi Rotary clubs — Lodi, Lodi-Tokay and Lodi Sunrise — combined to raise an additional $5,000 to pay for Segale's supplies and time on the mural. Design Woodworking also donated the frame for the mural.

Segale has always enjoyed going to libraries and said he did not hesitate to be part of the fundraising effort. It was a challenge to paint the old library because there were few photos available, he said.

"It's a beautiful old building that's another historic landmark in Lodi," Segale said.

Gross, who is a member of the Lodi Public Library Foundation Board, and Library Services Director Nancy Martinez looked through several old photographs and gave them to Segale. The one the mural is based off of is from when the Carnegie Library was first constructed in 1910.

The exciting part for Segale is that the people in the photos did not have distinguishing features, so he was able to put his own artistic spin on the dedication. For example, at the corner of the original picture, there is a blur which is a woman walking into the picture. Segale was able to envision what she looked like.

"I was able to be able to portray it how I wanted to portray it," he said.

He also included some of the history surrounding the building. On the left side of the mural is a house that he believes still exists on Lee Street.

The main difference between this mural and others he has done around town is he was able to paint it in his studio. He usually paints directly onto a building, like his "Japantown Memories" mural on the Lodi Buddhist Church Annex Building.

"It gives you plenty of time to paint what you want and you can walk away from it. You can come back and paint again, tweaking it," Segale said.

The idea for the fundraiser came up when Gross wanted the library to be painted as part of the Wall Dogs project, which was a group of murals painted around town in 2006 to honor Lodi's 100th anniversary.

After feeling frustrated with what she described as an ugly chalkboard in the library's main meeting room, she told Martinez about her idea of painting a mural.

"We try to find different avenues that will bring people in and make them feel a part of the community," Gross said.

She also knew the library needed to raise money for the renovations. The library completed the first round of $1.8 million renovations in August 2009, which included the restrooms, meeting rooms, the staff's work area and the children's section.

The next $600,000 renovation, which the library has named "The Rest of the Story," will focus on the east side of the building. The renovation will feature a new adult section with areas called "living rooms," which are quiet reading areas away from the stacks, as well as a cafe, an enlarged computer room and another small meeting room.

At the dedication, Gross said she has spent time thinking about the people who helped establish the library in 1910 and how they would be pleased it is still going strong today.

"The people in that photo wanted a free lending library in their community and worked diligently to make that happen. ... Unfortunately, we do not know the names of the people in the dedication picture. I'm hoping they are watching us this evening with approval as we carry on the tradition of public service to our community," Gross said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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