Flint, MI—There’s a whimsical new mural featuring children’s book characters, Maya Angelou, the Declaration of Independence, and more on the corner of East Kearsley and Crapo Street, but unless you’re a Flint Public Library staff member—or one of the building’s renovation crew—you won’t be able to see it until March 2022.

It’s on interior-facing walls, explained local artist Kevin Burdick, who painted the mural by way of the Flint Public Art Project. “And (the building) is not going to open until March. That’s what they’re shooting for.”

Burdick said he was assigned the mural project in late spring of 2021, and then met with library staff to discuss the design a few times before it was approved.

Those meetings were difficult because the group was trying to address “how to put into image the feeling of a library,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to capture it all.”

Burdick added that though he isn’t much of a reader, the Flint Public Library mural has special significance to him.

“My grandma Burdick—my dad’s mom—she was a librarian,” he explained. “When I was younger, she would read to us all the time…a lot of the classics. And I’m an artist kid, you know, right-brained. All I wanted to do was look at the pictures.”

Burdick said that’s part of the reason visitors to the new library will see many of ‘the classics’ in his mural, like images from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and his take on ‘Winnie-the-Pooh.’

The under-construction new Flint Public Library located at 1026 E. Kearsley Street in Flint, Mich. on Nov. 10, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Aside from children’s book favorites, the mural also nods to the Flint Public Library’s collection.

In one section of the three-wall mural, two figures look at a tree with leaves spelling out “FAMILY.”

“We have the second largest open stack—which means you can just browse through and look at the books—genealogy collection in the state,” said Kay Schwartz, the library’s director.

Burdick’s mural also depicts a diversity of people, comprising multiple ages and races, which reflects the library’s hope that the new building will be considered a ‘community hub’ after its transformation.

“When (the library building) was built in 1958, we had two meeting rooms: large and largest,” said Schwartz. “We had no study rooms, no little meeting rooms…and we knew for sure that we needed more space for our two service priorities of early childhood literacy and digital learning.”

Schwartz said the new building will have six study rooms, mid-size meeting rooms for 6-8 people, classrooms for 25-30 people, and even a room seating up to 200 people.

“Our land and building are basically owned by the people of Flint through their district library,” said Schwartz. “So that is really the people’s place.”

Flint Public Library’s temporary Courtland Center location will be closing on Nov. 24.

Schwartz said only the library’s digital collection will be available until the renovated building reopens at 1026 Kearsley, but she did offer a solution for readers who want to help the library save money during the transition.

“The best thing we can do to avoid moving costs is to have everybody come to Courtland Center, check out the maximum 20 books, take them home, and keep them,” Schwartz laughed.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....