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Taylorsville Journal

New murals of Arches National Park now adorn Salt Lake County’s Taylorsville Library

Oct 01, 2019 10:43AM ● By Carl Fauver

The Taylorsville branch of the Salt Lake County library system has a new look inside, thanks to five new hand-painted murals depicting iconic scenes from Arches National Park. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

That Albert Einstein quote greets visitors to the Taylorsville branch of the Salt Lake County Library system (4870 South 2700 West), carved into a bench backrest.

You have to venture a bit deeper into the library to see another eye-catching amenity. And if you know a bit about the artist, Ken Hayes, it brings another famous quote to mind.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

“I have worked for the library system since April 2012 as a maintenance specialist in the facilities department,” Hayes, 56, said. “I am involved in deep cleaning the 18 libraries in our system. And after a big snowstorm, I’m one of those moving snow with an ATV or shoveling it by hand.”

From the outside (on the “cover”), you might not think the father of four and grandfather of six looks like a professional artist. But that judgment would be wrong.

“I grew up and graduated high school in Moab and later earned an associate’s degree from Provo College in visual arts and graphic design, including illustration,” Hayes said. “I’m also a self-taught cartoonist and got a good job with Reagan (Outdoor Advertising) shortly after earning my degree.”

From 1996 to 2002 Hayes plied his artistic skills to painting billboards, including several iconic images around the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

But Hayes and a handful of his Reagan co-workers could not quite keep pace with technology.

“Digital printing for billboards eroded our jobs,” he said. “I became obsolete.”

Flash forward nearly two decades, and Hayes continues to do freelance artwork. But he was stunned by the offer he received earlier this year from Taylorsville Library Branch Manager Cindy Smiley.

“Our wall was damaged after a temporary exhibit was removed,” Smiley said. “When it came time to repair the wall, Hayes was approved to paint five murals of Southern Utah rock formations for us.”

For three weeks this summer, Hayes continued to earn his normal facilities maintenance salary. But instead of cleaning and repairing, he was drawing and painting.

“I had seen Ken’s work before and knew how good it was,” Smiley said. “We had to work through a little red tape, but eventually we got permission to put him to work on our wall.”

“I think she (Smiley) really wanted to showcase that one of our own employees did this work,” Hayes said. “It was very nice of my bosses to let me do it, and I am very grateful Cindy made the request. I have really been blessed with some good employers.”

Hayes chose to depict five familiar scenes from Arches National Park, situated just a few miles from his childhood home in Moab.

“Each of the Murals is 40 inches tall, because that’s exactly how much space there was (between the tops of bookshelves and the bottoms of sky windows),” he added. “They range in width from 62 to 99 inches.”

As you might expect, iconic “Delicate Arch” is the central feature.

“I used 17 different colors on the project, including four shades of orange, three browns and two reds, greens and yellows,” Hayes said. “The entire project only cost about $130 for paints and brushes.”

Library patrons enjoyed watching the daily work being done. 

“I feel pretty good about how they turned out,” Hayes said. “A number of patrons have complimented me. Kids have given me the ‘thumbs up’ sign while parents have called the murals ‘awesome.’ As an artist, the best part of the work is getting compliments. That means more to me than money. It really makes my day.”

“I think they are beautiful,” library patron Jenn McKague said as she was watching Hayes complete his touch-ups during his final day on the project. “I had seen some of Ken’s drawings before, but I never expected anything like this.”

Also there to admire his work that day was Jenn’s brother and three nieces, all from Spain.

“This painting project may have just been a one-time thing,” Hayes said. “But if the library system ever wanted murals in some of their other branches, I would love to do it again. Who knows, I might even be able to give part of my time to the library marketing department, which would be wonderful.”

Anyone who sees the murals may well agree with Hayes that would be a good move for the Salt Lake County Library System. They could probably find someone with a little less artistic flair to shovel snow and clean carpets on occasion. 

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