LOWELL | A jaguar reclines in a rainforest while, nearby, a green sea turtle floats underwater and a meadowlark overlooks Evergreen Park.
It's all part of "The Wonderful World of Wild Animals," a richly detailed mural covering 1,050 square feet of wall space in the Children's Room of the Lowell Public Library.
A formal dedication of the mural is set for 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7. The event, which will include activities for children, entertainment for adults and refreshments, will be from 3 to 6 p.m. A silent auction will be held during that time. The event is hosted by the GFWC Lowell Women's Club.
It is the culmination of more than two years of work by muralist Dennis Orlowski, of Hamtramck, Mich.
"It is an incredible gift Dennis has given to the community," said Dr. Rebecca Salter, of the Lowell Library Board. "As a board member and as a member of the community, I'm deeply appreciative. ... It has absolutely transformed the children's area," she said.
Started under former Library Director Sandy Morgan, who retired, the mural was completed under Lowell Library Director Gene Pidzarko.
"It is entirely the result of good will and generosity, of gifts and donations," he said.
After Orlowski visited the library to see a friend who works there, he suggested a mural, and the library administration unsuccessfully sought a grant to fund his work.
As a result, he agreed to create the murals for whatever amount the library could raise.
Recently, the board agreed to give Orlowski $2,000 from the Janet Grainger Memorial Fund.
"It's just a token gift to show our appreciation," Salter said.
It's all the library can afford, she said.
Orlowski said he believes, as exemplified during the Renaissance, public art serves both social and community functions by educating, expressing civic pride and presenting cultural themes.
"I'm retired. It exercised my skill," Orlowski said of his willingness to create the murals in what he said was a spiritual experience.
Orlowski said library visitors often stopped to watch him at work.
"The children would come in. One girl brought me her drawings," he said.
Orlowski said he hopes the murals will stand in perpetuity. Two Lowell children, selected through a lottery, posed for him, and their images are incorporated into the murals. It provides an historic perspective, he said.
Each will receive a gift from him — a book showing his process from the sketches of them to their images in paint on the walls.
Orlowski said the Lowell project has given him far more than he gave in his work. He and his "friend," Susan Jackson, are now engaged to be married.