By Aimee H. Hansen, ‘02
TO many BYU students, the Harold B. Lee Library is anything but enchanting. Most have spent seemingly endless hours pouring over books in its hushed study areas and made far too many trips up and down its staircases trying to locate elusive call numbers. But a new addition to the fourth floor has brought a welcome, fresh perspective for many who have ventured there in recent months.
This new addition is a colorful 26-foot-long, 8-foot-high mural illustrating memorable characters and positive values found in children’s literature. The mural, titled “Come Now, and Let Us Reason Together, Saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18), is located in the Farnsworth Juvenile Literature Library. It was created by Michael D. K. Lehnardt, ’03, a senior from Springville, Utah, studying art and science.
The juvenile literature librarian, Marsha D. Broadway, ’81, explains that the library wanted to find a piece of art to draw people into its children’s section. After considering existing art, Broadway consulted Bethanne Parker Andersen, ’76, a visual arts assistant professor teaching the illustration course in which Lehnardt was enrolled.
For their final project Andersen asked her students to submit proposals for a mural for the children’s section of the library. When Lehnardt submitted his assignment, he had no idea that it would turn into his senior BFA project and a job that would take over his life for eight months.
“I was surprised and honored when they chose my ideas for the mural,” Lehnardt says. “This project turned out to be a lot more work than I imagined, but I’m happy I was able to do it.”
Lehnardt based his design for the mural on Raphael’s School of Athens, but, as he explains, “Instead of having philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates in the painting, I put in dinosaurs and lions and a lot of little kids.” Lehnardt searched through children’s books to find characters and themes. He also found stories from a variety of cultures.
“I painted this for children, for BYU students, and really for anyone familiar with children’s literature,” says Lehnardt. “My wish is that the mural will remind people of their parents and their childhood.”
And, according to Broadway, the mural does just that. She says, “It’s so interesting to ask those people who have stopped to look, ‘What’s your favorite part of the mural?’ I get so many different answers. Everyone brings his or her own story to the mural, usually based on personal experiences with family members or books from their childhood.”
Along with dozens of characters from nursery rhymes and classic children’s stories—including Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus, Humpty Dumpty, Sleeping Beauty, and Robin Hood—Lehnardt has included symbols and reminders in the mural of the many Christian virtues that are embedded in children’s literature.
Aslan, the lion from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, is a Christ-figure in the mural. Lehnardt has also included images of the Garden of Eden and of healing, peace, knowledge, and redemption. As Broadway puts it, “There are layers of meaning here. You really have to look carefully at this mural. Michael has hidden many little jewels.”
“It really is an honor to have my work up at BYU,” Lehnardt says. “I believe BYU strives to help people become more childlike and Christlike, and I did my best to contribute to the atmosphere here.”