Ethel Spears’ mural

Flagg-Rochelle Public Library Director Sarah Flanagan
Posted 8/10/21

Have you ever visited the front room of the original 1912 public library? There is a hidden gem above the fireplace, a beautiful mural.

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Ethel Spears’ mural


Have you ever visited the front room of the original 1912 public library?  There is a hidden gem above the fireplace, a beautiful mural.

At one time, this room housed the entire library collection. At the time the mural was added to the area above the fireplace in 1939, it would have been the focal point of the entire library.

“Ethel Spears was born on Oct. 5, 1902 and raised in Chicago. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied in the textile design department.  She was active in the 1930s as a WPA artist. She was registered in the Illinois Federal Art project. In 1937, Spears became an instructor at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago. She remained there for 24 years. She was formally diagnosed with lead poisoning in 1955.  Ethel Spears died on Aug. 2, 1974 in Navasota, TX.” ( 

The mural is 80 inches wide by 42 1/2 inches high. The painting is entitled, “Merry Go Round.”  The artist is Ethel Spears. Spears was out of work and came from Chicago to work in Rochelle.

She painted this in the main room above the fireplace so that it would be at a focal point in the room. The painting is oil on canvas mural. The painting depicts a beautiful spring day and it looks like adults and children are having a good time riding the carousel and being at the park together. Everyone appears to be happy and carefree. 

There are birds in the painting and large mature trees surrounding the carousel. The carousel is right in the center of the painting and it is the main object in the picture. It is large compared to the people in the painting. 

The sky has blue and white clouds and it appears to be a warm sunny day. The people in the picture are outside without jackets on and there are children and adults everywhere. An older lady sits on a park bench on the right side of the painting. 

The colors are very vibrant and beautiful. The carousel is blue, gold, and red with many white horses throughout. There is blacktop around the outside of the carousel and people are standing along the outside watching as the carousel spins around.

It looks like a busy day at the park. If you look in the lower right corner, her name is printed in tiny handwriting.

Come in and visit us!  Make sure to bring your masks, they are required. We invite you to come in and see this one of a kind, library gem!

Sarah Flanagan is the director of the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library.