The Tuolumne County Library has been the focus of controversy lately, as a since-removed political display in the entryway triggered a partisan dustup.
But turn the corner and there's something all political parties can agree on: the refurbished children's library, spectacularly highlighted by artist Tracy Knopf's wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor mural.
Almost as amazing as Knopf's breathtaking panorama is that the work
didn't cost county taxpayers a cent. Instead it was the result of a
more-than-two-year community service project by the Sonora Sunrise
Rotarians - led by past presidents Jim Cherry and Robin Phillips -
weren't the only ones who pitched in: dozens of supporters participated
in two major fundraising dinners; the children's library staff was
involved in planning from the outset; and volunteers and local
businesses contributed their time, energy and donations.
Seeds for the ambitious job were planted in 2008, when club members
visited the library to take a look at a $7,000 microfilm reader they
had donated sometime earlier. But what the Rotarians noticed was not
the reader, but the children's library.
It was dull, worn-out looking, even drab. "It looked like it needed a hug," said one member, and an idea was born:
Why not brighten the place up with an outdoorsy mural that reflected the library's theme, "From pastures to pines"?
The canvas was ready: An 80-foot-long wall that at its apex reached
16 feet. Altogether it spread over 1,100 square feet, the size of a
small house. It begged for color and imagination.
Both were furnished by Tracy Knopf, a housepainter-turned-muralist
who seemed tuned into what both the Rotarians and the librarians had in
Her mural runs from daybreak in the foothills to moonlight in the
High Sierra, and from the skies above towering peaks to the depths of a
mountain stream. And its cast, dozens of species ranging from
butterflies, beetles and crawdads to ospreys, otters and mountain
Not only that, but Knopf has reprised the species on her mural on a
line of trim running completely around the children's library.
Is it popular? Kids have been fascinated since Knopf brightened the
library wall with her first brush strokes. Now dozens of kids catalog
mammals, birds and fish and match them with duplicates in the trim
And adults? It's tough to keep them out of the children's library,
and the new carpeting and furniture installed below that stunning mural
is an attractive addition as well.
None of this came cheap. Sunrise Rotary President Bob Hoyt said
costs topped $40,000 for the project, "the most ambitious we've
A key to the success was two successful "Celebrity Waiter" dinners held at the Black Oak Casino's Seven Sisters restaurant.
According to Rotarian Gregory Oliver, who coordinated the dinners,
they combined the efforts of guest chefs, nearly 50 waiters and close
to 300 dinner patrons. Seven Sisters restaurant and their vendors
donated food, wine, staff expertise and a great venue. Together these
tasty community feasts raised more than $45,000.
The children's library project provides a lesson in what can be
accomplished by volunteers with foresight, cooperation and a worthy
goal supported by all involved. That this fundraising effort - and
completed project - was done amid the worst recession in generations is
also a testament to the generosity of individuals and local businesses
in our community.