How One Reaction to a Mural Tore a New England Town Apart

Few were present at the select board meeting in Littleton, N.H., last August when Carrie Gendreau, one of its members, began to talk about a mural that had recently been painted on the side of a building downtown.

Until that moment, it had not attracted much attention. Its subject matter — a blooming iris, dandelions, birch trees — did not seem controversial.

But for Ms. Gendreau, 62, who was also a state senator representing northern New Hampshire, the mural had set off alarms. She was certain there were subversive messages in its imagery, planted there by the nonprofit group that had planned and paid for it.

The group was North Country Pride, founded four years ago to build more visible support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the rural region.

“We need to be very careful,” Ms. Gendreau said at the meeting. She urged residents to “research” what the mural “really means,” and called for closer oversight of other public art.

“I don’t want that to be in our town,” she said.

The images in this mural, by Trillium Handcrafts, were seen as subversive by Carrie Gendreau, one of the select board members in Littleton.

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