//Cultivating Community Art

Cultivating Community Art

Libraries are places that nurture an individual’s free and creative expression – and that includes art.

ABC Quilt at Shaker Library

Walk into either Library building and you can enjoy art on a regular basis, from small exhibits in glass cases, to visual art hung on reading room walls, or exhibited in the formal gallery on Main Library’s second floor.

Since its founding the Library has acquired a growing collection of public art. Some highlights at Main Library include a large mural depicting scenes from Alice in Wonderland, which was purchased for Woods Branch by Society Bank (now KeyBank). The mural was created by Andrew Karoly and Louis Szanto,
Hungarian-American artists from New York, who dominated the mural painting scene in Cleveland after World War II. (One of their murals hangs in the Children’s Ward at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital.) The pair mainly worked through the Shaker Square-based Irwin and Gormley Co. interior decorators, and painted over 30 murals for local businesses.

“The Sleepy ABC,” a three-panel collage by author/illustrator Esphyr Slobodkina, which was given to the Library on permanent loan by the artist’s stepdaughter and Shaker resident, the late Charlotte Van Stolk, enhances Main Library’s children’s room.

The now-defunct Cooperative Nursery School at Plymouth Church financed “Childhood Unabridged,” four pastel and acrylic pictures of children at play by artist Heather Drago. A fabric art quilt created by Shaker children and adults hangs on the wall in the Children’s Room at Woods Branch along with a letter from Jack Prelutsky, whose poem, Children, Children Everywhere, inspired the 1992 intergenerational quilting project. The project was underwritten by Friends of the Shaker Library and coordinated by textile artist Ruta Butkus Marino.

Colorful stained glass art by Al Brickel of New Daisterre Glas is located in the center bay window and flows into the tops of two adjoining windows in the
Children’s Room at Woods Branch. The art was donated in 1996 by Lucille Winston in memory of her parents.

The Library is at the center of the community and provides an ideal place to promote and display the talents of local artists and community groups. When the
City wanted to display the architectural entries in its Shaker Design Competition for the Moreland neighborhood, the Library was one of the sites chosen. The Nature Center Photography Club took advantage of the Library’s gallery space to display winning entries in its photography contest, and the Shaker Schools use the gallery for its yearly Art Exposed exhibits to showcase students’ work and to highlight the depth and breadth of the art curriculum.

The Library’s art gallery is available to local artists who wish to exhibit and sell their body of work. Applications to exhibit can be found online at shakerlibrary.org. Onaway resident artist and printmaker Jane Petschek recently exhibited her work and commented, “Th e art gallery in the Main Library is a lovely space for artists to display their artwork and to interact with visitors in the community. As an emerging artist, I think it is so wonderful to have local support in a great venue. At my Library exhibition I sold some artwork, and the exposure helped me obtain other group and solo shows.”

The yearly Barbara Luton Art Competition, launched with funds provided by Friends of the Shaker Library to honor a former library director on her retirement, affords local artists the opportunity to have their artwork juried and recognized. Each year one piece is selected as Best of Show and is purchased by the Library for its permanent collection.

Since its inception, the Library has added 19 pieces of art including works by Shaker residents Gary Williams, Horace Reese, Johnine Byrne, Daniel George, Mary Ryan, Amy Lewandowsi, Elise Newman, and Anna Hsu. Upon being notified that her watercolor, “New Steps on Old Paths,” was selected as the 2018 Best of Show, Mercer resident Anna Hsu commented, “When I received news that my art piece was juried as the Best of Show, I was thrilled. I am very happy and honored to have my painting on display at the Shaker Library. My family has called Shaker Heights home since 1978, and we have always appreciated Shaker’s rich cultural diversity. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to that diversity through my art, which is rooted in the style of Chinese brush paintings. The Library’s mission, “to strengthen community and transform lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas” is further enhanced by the addition of art, which brings people and places to life.