Like many artists, I have a day job that takes me away from my studio. Mine is at a public library and the people I work with, and have worked with, are truly amazing. As a team we bring information, learning, culture, fun and life to our community.
Much of my day consists of collaborating and working with my colleagues and community partners. (The rest of it is spent in front of a screen with the Adobe Creative Cloud on a good day, with Excel on a not-so-good one!) There are other artists, musicians, and writers in the organization and like me are at their day jobs. And of course, there are the librarians. If you don’t get to count a librarian among your friends, I’m sad for you! Don’t pay attention to the old stereotypes of shushing and hair buns. No, the librarians I work with are some badass, curious, fun, and innovative people!
In my position I coordinate traveling and local exhibits that run the gamut of subject matter. We host art exhibits ranging from elementary school work to some of the finest contemporary book art in the world; we have history exhibits, quilt exhibits, exhibits of quirky collections (like vintage aprons, and Scrabble® games), traveling Smithsonian exhibits, and huge traveling interactive exhibits that turn the library into a science museum. (The photo above is of my fingers on the plasmasphere that came with one such exhibit, Discover Space.) I’ve had the opportunity to meet some distinguished authors and scholars, and to work with multi-talented professionals who are the lone staff members at museums in small Wyoming towns. Each project inspires me at work and as an artist. Sometimes the projects are so all-consuming that they take over my life (Discover Space) and my off-time creative work takes a back seat for a period. But through it all I learn something I didn’t know before, and it adds to the reservoir of information I get to draw from while working in my studio and at the library.
The highlight of my year in is the annual book arts exhibit we established at the library a few years ago. I work with a curator to put together a themed exhibit of 15-20 artists working in mediums or techniques traditionally used in handcrafted books, or using books themselves. Each year I’m amazed at the artists who exhibit and the ways they interpret the theme to create works of art. The pieces range from codex forms to sculptures that make library visitors scratch their heads and wonder how that thing is a book. (I find it very satisfying when people ask questions!) The creativity and depth of thought dig deep into my soul. Each day I’m at work during the exhibit I check on the art to make sure all is well, and along with the process of creating statement labels and the exhibit catalog, I get to know the pieces pretty intimately. Even though I’ve never met many of the artists in person, I also feel like I get to know the group quite well through their work and words. (I hope when/if I do get to meet them, I don’t weird them out by seeming too familiar!)
One of my former colleagues gave me a poster with a quote by Amy Poehler that rings very true: “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” My groups challenge and inspire me every day, and my library group has had my back and held my hand, both at work and away, through some really difficult times in life. We’ve cried tears of sorrow together, and tears of joy while jumping up and down in celebration.
Though there are days I’d really like to stay in my studio and not come out for hours instead of going to my day job, it has changed my life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.