Art in the Library – by Kelly Unsworth

Written by Kelly Unsworth, the Head of Children’s Services at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin June 29, 2012.

This time of year, with all of the graduations, I always remember my first career interest, art. With an undergraduate degree in Art History I was often asked, even in strong economic times, what I was going to do with my degree. With youthful optimism, I put skepticism aside and set off to pursue my dreams. Hard work paid off, and for a number of years I supported myself working in a portrait photography studio in Harvard Square, and later, as a studio assistant to the artists then known as the Starn Twins. This was an exciting time as the artists were young and just beginning to be recognized in the art world. Using unique methods to manipulate photographs, they were cutting edge, and selling art in a Newbury Street gallery as well as being included in larger institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts. So that’s what I would do with my degree.

As my career morphed, as careers do, I continued to acquire degrees the way the most people acquire pets or property. I began to work more with children, and focused on art and literature. After a few years of trial and error, I found my calling, as a children’s librarian in a public library. It is here that I am able to use my background in art on a daily basis.

Art is no small part of the library; there are books, displays, and programs for all ages. The children’s room has space to display students’ artwork from the elementary schools and the high school. The art teachers are fantastic about changing the display every few months, and children love to see their work in a public space. The rest of us are always amazed at the quality of the work, and enjoy seeing the parents and grandparents come in to view it. One year, we were even lucky enough to have sculptural pieces from the elementary schools known as M&M People. In addition to this display area, we also have display cases in the front of the library that often feature the artwork of adults and children.

But art in the library doesn’t stop with displays; there are countless programs for children and adults who are feeling creative. This summer, there is a children’s craft time every Wednesday from 10 – 12 noon, where children can drop-in and try one of the crafts. On July 18 from 9:30 – 11 a.m., our “artist- in-residence” Cindy Rudolph will be offering a class for adults, “Artful Marker Lettering,” and in the past has conducted programs such as Suminagashi Marbling. Our resident crafter, Marg Corjay, has offered a variety of children’s and adult classes including needlepoint, knitting, wreath-making, and homemade bath salts. The Norwood Art Association also offers monthly artist demonstrations. The creativity flows freely at every turn; no wonder I feel at home here.

Books can be found on art techniques, artists, art history, art heists, and stories based upon the art world, such as the well known adult book and movie “The Girl With the Pearl Earring” and the children’s book series by Blue Balliett that are mysteries based upon famous artists. For teens, there are many fabulous coffee table books featuring the works of fashion photographer Richard Avedon, graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, and books on tattoos based on favorite literary works. And each day I enjoy sharing the artwork in picture books with the younger children.

For those who enjoy viewing art, you need to look no farther than the second floor of the library, where three prints from the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, hang on the walls. Or for a more extensive viewing experience, you can borrow one of the passes to the Museum of Fine Arts or the Gardner Museum.

So after finding my niche at the library, working at a job where I am surrounded by art, I always encourage students to pursue their dreams, even in this poor economic market. It will shape your outlook on life and enrich your life on a daily basis. What more could you ask for from an undergraduate degree? Save a career path for your graduate degree….or degrees.

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