Above, Artist Meg Reinhold recently unveiled the three panels, on boarded up windows on a private brick structure owned by a restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Jackson Street in Littleton. Paula Tracy photo
Above, There are now lawn signs popping up around the region reading “EVERYONE BELONGS Live and Let Live, Our Friends, Our Neighbors. North Country.” Paula Tracy photo
By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LITTLETON – The North Country’s highest ranking elected leader, state Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton, who is also a member of the Littleton Selectboard, was on the hot seat at Monday’s meeting when about 200 came to denounce her comments about new artwork on a private downtown building that she said she did not want in her town.
Gendreau had told fellow selectboard members she did not like newly unveiled work with LGBTQ+ undertones and had asked for a legal discussion to be held on future artwork rules. That never happened at the selectboard meeting.
Littleton Town Manager Jim Gleason said Tuesday there were 26 who spoke to comments Gendreau had made at the Board meeting Aug. 28.
On Monday night many people were holding signs reading, “Everyone Belongs,” picketing outside the Opera House where the meeting was relocated to accommodate the public and all were given three minutes to address the board.
In a statement Gendreau said, “I would like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone that came to the selectboard meeting and voiced their opinions and did so peacefully. I listened to every single person that spoke and took detailed notes to better understand everyone’s opinions and concerns.
“I believe it is incredibly important to hear the diverse viewpoints of our community and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to listen and take these sentiments to heart. Thank you all for attending and sharing your views.”
Gleason confirmed that a published quotation in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper was largely accurate where Gendreau said, “What went up is not good…I don’t want that to be in our town.”
The minutes of the Aug. 28 meeting read “Gendreau expressed her concerns over the deeper meaning of some of the artwork being up around town. She understands that work on private property is separate from town owned property.”
The minutes also state that Gleason confirmed that they as a board would vote on anything like that before it gets put up on town property.
There are no rules or a particular board set up in Littleton to review proposed artwork on private structures, Gleason confirmed.
Artist Meg Reinhold recently unveiled the three panels, on boarded up windows on a private brick structure owned by a restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Jackson Street.
“I wanted a calm nature scene,” she was quoted as saying.
The first panel is the painting of an Iris with its roots and has a rainbow around it. The second panel is two intertwined Paper White Birch trees and a crescent moon and the third depicts an open book with a flowering dandelion with its roots coming up through the book and at the bottom in shadow and hard to read by passersby are various quotes from writers essentially urging the reader to live their own lives. It is signed No.Co.Pride.
Reinhold was quoted as saying she wanted the work to be entitled “We Belong.”
But that was not the message members of the public said Gendreau was sending, some complained on the street, Tuesday.
This is a town where visitors are greeted not only with signs of Pollyanna, the fictitious and irrepressibly optimistic girl whose author Eleanor H. Porter called home, but also other walls of the town depicting flowers, and historic and cultural aspects of the North Country.
Suzy Colt of Whitefield, in a letter to the editor in the Caledonian newspaper entitled “What’s Wrong With ‘Everyone Belongs?'” criticized but also thanked Gendreau for bringing the “message to light.”
There are now lawn signs popping up around the region reading “EVERYONE BELONGS Live and Let Live, Our Friends, Our Neighbors. North Country.”
Following the publicity related to the comments, Gendreau resigned from the board of directors of the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank.
She has maintained she stands by her comments.
Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, issued the following statement addressing the controversy.
“Senator Gendreau has deeply held religious beliefs and has been open about them during her time as an elected official. In the state Senate, as volunteers, we all come from different life experiences and have different viewpoints on issues including this one.
“I do not hold the same views as Carrie, and I regret if anyone was offended by her views. I also think it was important that the community was able to express their viewpoints last night and that Carrie was able to listen to their input and concerns.”
On the streets of downtown Littleton, Tuesday, Maryann Hamilton and Dawn Bennett of nearby St. Johnsbury, Vt. came to see what all the fuss was about.
At first they had a hard time finding what they thought they were looking for as a large wall mural.
“I am a Christian so I can respect her Christian aspects, but I don’t know. I am kind of torn. We’re looking hard to see what is objectionable. And she states in her article she is not against gay people…” Hamilton said.
Hamilton noted she thought she was looking for a depiction of the goddess Isis, one of the most important in ancient Egypt, whose power transcended other deities and wore a crown with horns on the side, not an Iris flower.
Littleton resident Jason Smith said he looked at it and thought that the panels were somehow offering a religious meaning.
Gendreau is in her first term as a state senator from the North Country. She was re-elected to her post at the town level in March.
Earlier this year, Gendreau was in the Republican majority of the Senate when it voted 14-10 to oppose a Constitutional right to abortion.
“I have a higher authority and my constituents are not my higher authority in this case,” she said. “This is a moral and biblical issue, not a political issue.”
Gleason said Phlume Media is contracted to record selectboard meetings and will likely have the Monday night meeting available online later this week.