By LISA WHALEY
A new mural adorns the wall of the Jonesborough Library, dedicated to “all who find adventure in reading.”
Orchestrated by the Friends of the Washington County Library and created by local artist Bill Bledsoe, this colorful rendition of literary greats, from “Moby Dick” to “Tom Sawyer,” is intended to inspire all who enter the library’s doors in search of a good book.
But the mural also holds an even deeper meaning for parents Russel and Kathy May, who have donated the artwork to the library in honor of their son, Sam.
“We are delighted to donate the mural that is titled ‘Travel Through Time. Read!’ which was designed and created by Jonesborough’s own Bill Bledsoe to the Jonesborough Library in honor of our son, Sam,” Russel Mays told a small crowd present at the July 20 mural unveiling and reception. “Sam loved Johnson City and Jonesborough and was involved with many, many activities with lasting impact.
“We believe that with guidance of the library staff, many creative and wonderful activities will be inspired by this mural. And it will make the library even more fun for its users.”
Samuel D. Mays, a well-known urban artist who passed away in 2013, was credited with a number of local contributions during his lifetime, from helping design one of the first Jonesborough Days T-shirts to playing an important role in the creation of the original Blue Plum Festival.
“He graduated from ETSU with a bachelor in fine arts, and opened a graphic design firm, Fresh Punch, in Johnson City,” Russell Mays shared. “His work is still all around you.”
But Mays stressed that this mural was about so much more than just their son. While they believe it reflects his passion and creativity, the art also honors all the workers behind the scene who help make the library what it is.
“There are two reasons Kathy and I wanted to donate this mural to the library,” he explained. “One was to honor our son. The second is (because of all of the library services) paid for by Friends of the Library. We did not want Friends money to go any other direction than programing.”
For Bledsoe, being part of “Travel Through Time” was also a double honor.
First, he said, through the process he got to learn even more about fellow artist Mays.
Next, the creation process got him to thinking about his own library journeys.
“For me, I wanted to put images of stories that I enjoyed, and most specifically, when I moved here to Jonesborough I was 10 years old,” Bledsoe shared. “I never had an experience of being in a library while living in Johnson City. But when we moved to Jonesborough, the library was in the basement of the Chester Inn.
“My ritual was to go down there, especially when school was going on, and do my homework every night. I loved walking down there and I loved the smell of the books.”
As an artist, it was, of course, the illustrations that caught Bledsoe’s eye. He drew on those memories when he began the mural.
“These are based on original illustration in the first editions of these books that are referenced in here,” Bledsoe said. “Whether it’s the Lord of the Rings or the Wizard of Oz or the Odyssey, Moby Dick, Narnia, the Headless Horseman, Tom Sawyer, A Christmas Carol, Fall of the House of Usher.”
“Whenever you are asked to do something about literature, the mural could run all the way from this corner and back and it still wouldn’t be enough.”
He hopes the mural can inspire a new generation of readers and artists.
Mays closed the reception with the following Haiku, in honor of his son:
He loved and was loved.
He gave, but was given more.
He lived and lives on.