Becoming a Part of Art

June 30, 2015

Image from Bookless at Madison Public Library in 2012
Bookless at Madison Public Library in 2012.

How can libraries and museums become a part of the artistic process? The question was at the heart of the Saturday morning Conversation Starter session, “The Library-Museum Connection,” presented by the Library as Incubator Project. In this rapid-fire presentation, librarians from a research library, a large urban library, and a small municipal library shared examples of how they are using their expertise, spaces, and collections to help foster creativity and position libraries as arts incubators.

Presenters Erinn Batykefer, program coordinator at New Canaan (Conn.) Library, Kara West, library arts and culture exhibition manager at San Diego Public Library, and Rebecca Hopman, outreach librarian at the Corning (N.Y.) Museum of Glass cited Madison (Wis.) Public Library’s 2012 Bookless art event, in which the library invited more than 100 artists to create an interactive show in the Central Public Library building that was then empty in preparation for remodeling, as inspiration for their efforts. The one-night-only event was a massive success, with crowds that exceeded those at the nearby Madison Museum of Contemporary Museum of Art that day.

Bookless showed Batykefer, West, and Hopman that the library can place itself in the center of the artistic process, offering collections to spark and inspire, space for artists to work and exhibit work created in the library, and an eventual home for the art in the library’s permanent collection, with hopes that the work would then inspire future generations who use the library as their creative home.

Batykefer, Hopman, and West detailed their libraries’ individual efforts to become arts incubators. The results were impressive, particularly the Corning Museum’s artist-in-residency program, which finds artists using the glass specimens, drawings, and designs in the museum’s collection as springboards to create inspired glass books and more.

“Artists come to the museum, get inspired, make something, and we document it and add it to our collection,” Hopman said. “It’s cyclical. The work created here will inspire others. But you don’t have to have a medium-specific collection to inspire an artist. Inspiration can come from anything.”


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