More Than Grasslands Mural

When the library was planning its new facility, the architects asked the staff if the library was looking for a specific theme that would determine the decor throughout the building. After much deliberation, the building committee had suggested that nature would be a good choice in that it would be timeless.



The Orland Park Public Library had been receiving and distributing the Bobolinks newsletter of the Orland Grasslands volunteers for about a year, and so Pat Hayes, the editor, was contacted as a source for what flora and fauna would be native to our area. We also contacted an author/illustrator of children’s nature books, Carol Lerner, located in Chicago, to help us compile this list. Carol was quite knowledgeable about prairies and had written a children’s book, Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie that contains some very detailed black and white drawings of the flora native to a prairie.


Our next step was to find a muralist that could render our idea. After several months, we discovered the art of naturalist, John Dawson. John’s background in illustrating National Geographic articles, and designing stamps for the United States Postal Service was ideal. His series of stamps, Nature of America, is meticulous and awe-inspiring. His attention to detail and his insistence on accuracy made him an excellent choice. Geographically, though, John and his wife Kathy reside in Hawaii.

What we found out after speaking with our architect, Lohan Anderson, is that a mural need not be painted right on the wall, but can be reproduced digitally and offer the same quality. We communicated our idea and list to John and he sent us a sample sketch of his rendering. We were delighted with his depiction. John and his wife, Kathy, who is his partner in Dawson and Dawson, Ltd. flew here in September, 2004 and hiked our native grassland project on 179th and LaGrange taking hundreds of snapshots that would be used to design the mural painting. With Pat Hayes as our guide, we spent hours enjoying the flora of Orland Park. The animals, unfortunately, stayed clear of us, but we enjoyed the flight of the birds and insects that hovered. Over the next several months, John painted our native grassland prairie using acrylic paints on masonite. His rendering was a fourth of the true size that would stretch across the Story Time wall which was almost 9 feet tall and 26 feet long.

The mural painting was approved in early spring and Skyline Designs of Chicago was chosen to digitally reproduce this enchanting painting.

Our mural would not have been possible without the talents of John and Kathy Dawson, the expertise of Carol Lerner, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of Pat Hayes and the Orland Grasslands’ volunteers. We hope the Orland Park community enjoys this lasting tribute to our prairie and learns more about the animals and plants we see everyday.

Check these PDF documents for more information:

Also, check these images of the mural:

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