Artist Completes 'Banned Books' Mural in MO
St. Louis-based artist David Ruggeri has recently completed a “banned books” mural on the side of the Dunaway Books bookstore in the city. The project reportedly took several days to complete and features an array of banned/challenged books, including:
According to reports, five of the six works were banned or reported to be pending a ban investigation at Missouri school libraries at the end of 2022. The action arrives after the state enacted a new law in August, removing certain reading materials at public and private schools that the Secretary of State’s Office deemed to contain “explicit sexual material.”
More recently, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft introduced a proposal that, if approved, would require a certification process for all state-funded libraries and review whether they currently offer “non-age-appropriate” reading materials.
Fighting Back for Books
In a declaration battle over censorship in schools and public libraries, Ruggeri—an associate professor at the University of Missouri – Columbia and artist by trade—reached out to Dunaway Books owners Kevin Twellman and Claudia Brodie via email.
“Hearing the stories about the books taken out of their library is concerning,” Ruggeri told reporters. “We always tell them [his two sons] how important it is to be able to gather your own information and make your own decisions.”
According to reports, the used bookstore offers 80,000 volumes, including works such as “Maus,” a graphic novel about the Holocaust, and “Mein Kampf,” the antisemitic manifesto by Adolf Hitler.
“We try to be as apolitical as possible,” store manager Vernon Bain said. “We’re not going tell you you can’t read something.”
To those involved with the bookstore, Ruggeri’s proposed idea to paint a mural was a welcomed suggestion. A reader for more than 50 years, Bain pointed out that the industry hasn’t seen this much controversy over books since the ‘60s and early ‘70s.
“You need to understand both the good and bad in the world to really gain a full understanding of what’s going on,” Bain said. “The only censorship there should be in this country is between a parent and a child.”
In a separate interview, Twellman added, “It’s all about libraries pulling books off shelves because they’re afraid of statutes passed by the state legislature this summer and what the secretary of state is doing.”
After further discussions about the project with Ruggeri, Twellman said that along with his wife, the group was able to identify a large spot on the exterior wall for the mural.
Measuring 19 feet tall by 18 feet wide, the area for the mural is a mixture of cinderblock and plywood surfaces. Before painting could begin, Ruggeri shared with PaintSquare Daily News that he first had to scrape the surfaces clean.
This was then followed by the application of a primer and coat of Behr PRO e600 exterior flat white paint. The mural artwork was then sketched out and painted with Montana Gold spray cans.
Since being completed, reports have indicated that the outdoor mural is just one part of the project. Ruggeri also recently created a painting called “Banned Books” which features books and pages from frequently-banned books across the U.S.
Twellman and Ruggeri are also looking at possible opportunities for artwork inside the store to send a similar message against banned books.
“Everybody should have a discussion about [banned books], or at least be aware of it,” Ruggeri concluded.