Over two years ago, the Trenton Free Public Library (TFPL) began discussions about painting the newly installed Young Adult area where books for kids from ages 13 to 18 sat waiting to be enjoyed.
Library Director Rebecca Franco Martin said that the area wasn’t inviting teens with dull colors. “The area where the “Young Adult” portion of the mural is was all white cinderblock and very uninviting for teens,” Franco Martin said.
The TFPL started searching for local artists and found Lori Johansson. After a conversation between Johansson and Franco Martin, Johansson wanted to loop in another Trenton artist, Leon Rainbow.
“I was talking to Rebecca,” Johansson said, “and she had mentioned and wanted to discuss (a mural). The style (the TFPL) were looking for really sounded more like Leon Rainbow’s style, so I asked if I could bring him on board. And yeah, I kind of just got going from there. It was a very organic situation.”
The TFPL was all ears to bringing in Rainbow and having his creative input on the project. “After meeting with (Johansson) and discussing ideas,” Franco Martin said, “(Johansson) looped in Leon Rainbow to bring in an element of graffiti art since it is timeless, representative of urban space, and adds an element of color, vibrancy, and dimension.” Supervising Library Assistant Eboni Love added, “we want to be hip to the hop.”
The two started to make designs in January and February of March 2020, but then the pandemic started. The TFPL shut down, and like everything else in the world, the project came to a screeching halt. Johansson was discouraged when it happened. “It was pretty disappointing when the pandemic happened,” they said. Then, in late 2021, things started up again. “So yeah, it was just really exciting to talk to them again and then get the design all squared away,” Johansson said.
Johansson began the design process. They met with Franco Martin and presented their ideas to her. Rainbow explained that the design process went well but took a while. “The design part took a while…We talked about it, and it had gotten shut down because of COVID. Then, it got picked back up again. Then we did one design and some stuff had to change, or (The TFPL) wanted to rework it. And then we reworked it,” Rainbow said.
The mural is in the young adult section overlooking young readers as they browse through the TFPL’s selection of comic books and novels. The design is set to mimic a comic book with bold text and large outlined letters. Rainbow said that the hope was to mimic what the kids were reading.
“We design that to have the look of a marker. It’s white text with a drop shadow. The existing wall was painted green, so we worked with those colors. So it has variations of green in the background and also some orange,” Rainbow explained.
There are two separate walls that the artists filled in. They are both brightly colored with an array of orange, green, reds, and purples. The one mural sits behind the computers, the other mural sits above a bookshelf.
Johansson said they wanted to make it a little more mature for the audience that will see it. “It’s a little bit like pop art style with graffiti letters on top. It’s really fun. It’s for the young adult’s section and the graphic novel section. So we tried to have it be, you know, kind of fun for the kids but not too childish,” they said.
Overall, the hope is that this will inspire the young adults who are reading to try something creative, whether that be creative writing, art, or pottery. “It does sort of open up these possibilities,” Johansson said. “Sometimes when kids feel locked into one way of thinking, they can use their creativity…It can unlock some things in their brain that they don’t realize they have the capacity to think about, and it just gives them a new perspective.”