Mural helps bring Mt. Prospect Library alive

  • Monty the Duck, and the little red wagon are both significant to the library.

      Monty the Duck, and the little red wagon are both significant to the library. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Artist Gregory Gove paints the mural at the Mount Prospect Library, which is now complete.

      Artist Gregory Gove paints the mural at the Mount Prospect Library, which is now complete. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Published7/15/2009 12:00 AM

Elephants, giraffes and monkeys, oh my.

A near life-size mural in the Kids Department at the Mount Prospect Public Library features these and other wild animals interacting with fearless young readers, in a whimsical display that wraps up this week by artist Greg Gove.


The 40-foot mural stretches along the north wall of the department, interrupted by doors to the reading rooms, which double as tree trunks.

"Library officials told me they wanted something that was fun and whimsical, that included children and animals," says Gove, who lives in South suburban Crete.

From there, he let his imagination run wild, painting a child reading a book sitting on an elephant's trunk, as well as a monkey hanging upside down from a tree branch with a book, next to an ostrich on the run.

The centerpiece is a giraffe, with a book on its head, and its owner, a little girl, about to climb a ladder to get it back.

That's the character that captured the fancy of 7-year old Sabina Fijor, of Des Plaines. Her own picture that she drew of a giraffe hangs on the wall adjacent to the mural, as part of a local art class.

"Giraffes are my favorite," said Sabina. "I like that they're tall, like me."

If patrons look closely, they will see a white duck sitting in a red wagon, tucked down low in the mural. Both hold significance to the library.

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The red wagon brings patrons back to 1930, when Stella Jones pulled a similar wagon through Mount Prospect's neighborhoods seeking donations for the one-room library.

Monty, the white duck, first appeared in the Kids department two years ago, when another piece of public art was installed. The sculptor OK Harris designed a blue steel bench with a white duck seated on one end reading a book.

Ever since then, Monty has become the department's unofficial mascot and appears in everything from its Web site to its newsletter, and now in its mural.

The mural is the 11th piece of public art added to the library since it underwent its $20 million renovation in 2004. The yearlong project added a second floor and turned nearly the entire first floor into the Kids Department.


"Part of our original concept was to add public art, and art that was specifically commissioned for the space," says library spokeswoman Carolynn Muci, adding that every piece has been purchased through contributions and gifts to the library.

In commissioning Gove, they tapped an artist whose murals and sculptures can be found in libraries, hospitals, restaurants, hotels and corporate buildings. His largest one, which stretches more than 100 feet, remains on display at The Signature Room at the 95th, on top of the John Hancock Building in Chicago.

"I usually paint (the murals) on canvas back in the studio," Gove said, "before hanging them like wallpaper. Working here, on site, gave me live reactions and instant feedback. It sort of reminded me why I'm in this line of work."

The mural will be formally dedicated on Sept. 15, when library officials celebrate the fifth anniversary of their enhanced facility.

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