ST. LOUIS – Art meets literature as a local craftsman spent several days painting a message against Missouri book bans.

David Ruggeri began work on a new “banned books” mural outside of Dunaway Books, a St. Louis book store on South Grand Boulevard, earlier this week.

The mural consists of six popular works, including:

  • “1984” by George Orwell
  • “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Maus” by Art Spiegelman
  • “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
  • “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Five of the six works have either been “banned” or “banned pending investigation” at Missouri school libraries this year, according to national nonprofit PEN America. In August, Missouri enacted a new law to remove certain reading materials at public and private schools that the Secretary of State’s Office deemed to contain “explicit sexual material.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wants to take that a step further. He recently introduced a proposal to require a certification process for all state-funded libraries and review whether they currently offer “non-age-appropriate” reading materials.  

Kevin Twellman, who owns Dunaway Books with his wife Claudia, tells FOX 2 the recent developments motivated them to coordinate a mural with Ruggeri, who first reached out to them on the idea via email.

“It’s all about libraries pulling books off shelves because they’re afraid of statutes passed by the state legislature this summer and what the secretary of state is doing,” said Twellman. “We identified a pretty large spot on the exterior wall. It didn’t take long for David, my wife and I to agree that that is something that we wanted to do.”

Twellman says there’s a notable connection between two of the mural’s books, “1984” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Missouri’s current stance.

“I love irony, but I wonder if the irony of those two particular titles really strikes a lot of people,” said Twellman. “Those are Dystopian stories about what it’s like in an Authoritarian machine. One of the nasty things authoritarians do is ban books. Here we are on the other end, removing those particular books from shelves, and that to me is striking.”

The outdoor mural is one part of the project. Twellman and Ruggeri are looking at possible opportunities for artwork inside the store to send a similar message against banned books.

For a look at more of Ruggeri’s artwork and St. Louis projects, click here.