The county library’s Mullica Hill branch hosted a mural reveal in its children’s section on May 19 that showcased the work of local artist Jacqualynn Tomasello.
The new mural surrounds the Mullica Hill branch’s children’s department with a tree covering the main wall and animals such as giraffes and lions filling any open space there. Some of those animals represent New Jersey native species and others were suggested by the children who use the library.
“We have been wanting to brighten up this children’s area for a long time,” said Stephanie Smith, head of youth services for the Gloucester County Library System. “We knew we wanted to do a tree theme and get the kids involved.”
Tomasello was able to complete the mural through funds from the New Jersey Historical Commission and the Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission.
“I loved her vision from the start,” Smith said of the artist. “She had so many great ideas, and she even offered to do a couple classes for the kids to come in and help us design it.”
As Tomasello loves to represent the community in her work, she also included every child’s fingerprint in the center of the mural’s tree. From animal suggestions to fingerprints, there are more than 60 kids who are part of the mural.
“Every time [the children] come here, they can be like, ‘Wow, I helped make that,’” Smith noted.
As Tomasello painted her work throughout the season, she recognized something unique about the mural project: the daily compliments and support that come to her from the library staff.
“The staff was so supportive,” she said. “They’d stop me every day to say how happy they are and how appreciative they are.”
While the theme was a given, Tomasello was still inspired to paint a tree due to the curved shape of the library wall as well as the symbolism behind it.
“It kind of represents the library, with its outstretched arms, and being able to welcome everyone here,” she explained. “There’s also a lot of history, stories, everything in the trunk. So it worked out.”
Given the mural’s positive public reaction, Tomasello and the library system could work together again in the future.
“It definitely turned out the way I figured it would,” she said. “We landed where we wanted it to be, and I’m happy.”