South Bend Tribune

January 10, 2003

Deck the walls...

Mural Brightens Bittersweet Branch

Tribune Staff Writer
His career started as an escape from a boring job.

"I had a job as a visiting artist in Smithfield, North Carolina," David Blodgett said.

"They had nothing for me to do. One day, my wife said there was this big, ugly wall in the center of town. 'Let's go paint a mural,' she said."

In the two decades since, Blodgett and his wife, Linda Crimson, have been painting half-a-dozen or so murals a year. Some are in private businesses, like Italian restaurants and dog kennels.Others, including his latest work at the Bittersweet Branch of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, are in places you can visit almost every day.

"Sometimes, it's crazy," he said. "Right now, we're doing three projects at once."

The mural at Bittersweet. in some ways, covers common ground for him. He's completed several murals in local schools and libraries. Each one, he said, offers new challenges. He was asked to provide a mural for a long, odd-shaped wall above the book stacks in the children's section.

"They had only the vaguest of ideas what they wanted," he said. "They didn't want something super cute. They weren't looking for fuzzy animals."

In other words, the mural had to be interesting to older children as well as younger ones. Wife Linda suggested trees, and when Blodgett began sketching, he came up with a tree house.

"The idea of putting kids in didn't occur to me right away," he added.

He has children swarming into the tree house, which doubles as a library branch. Elsewhere in the mural, children are enjoying all kinds of activities, but all are carrying books.

"The primary goal, always, is to make it pretty," Blodgett said. "It has to be fun to look at. I'd hate it if people got tired looking at it."

He adds amusing elements you might overlook at first, like squirrels and birds and dogs and butterflies.If you look closely, you might recognize some of the children.

"They're all real kids," he said. "Most of them came from a Sunday school class at my church." The South Bend resident attends St. Mary's Polish National Catholic Church on Sample Street.

Murals are time-consuming, but they are enjoyable to do, he said.When he's working in school libraries, he often has children walking by, telling him how great he is.They wouldn't get any argument from the folks at the Bittersweet Branch.

Linda Sears, branch administrator, said she and children's librarian Rita Kemble had been looking for something special to help liven up the children's room. The branch was built in 1984 and renovated a few years ago. The children's room was spacious but a bit boring.

Dave and his mural
David Blodgett poses by the mural he recently painted for the Bittersweet Branch of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library.

Mural 1
David Blodgett blends his mural subjects in with the wall of the Bittersweet Branch of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library.

Mural 2
A large treehouse is part of a wall mural painted in the children's room of the Bittersweet Branch of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library.


For awhile, the wall was decorated with colorful posters. But the areais so large, the posters seemed too tiny.

"It was just painted a plain tan," Sears said. "We went over to HorizonSchool and saw the work Mr. Blodgett was doing there."

Libraries do more than store books. They are public places where thoughts and ideas are on display.

"Unfortunately, as tight as things are moneywise, we can't afford to pay for art," she said.

The Friends of the Library stepped forward with the funds, which were raised from the annual book sale.

"The Friends are the ones we look to for all the added extras here," Sears said.

She likes the message implied by Blodgett's outdoor mural scene.

"It's like they're taking knowledge out beyond the walls with them," she said.

Staff writer Ken Bradford:
(574) 235-6257

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