Living with Art
by Cy Dillon and C. A. Gardner
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out
As doth eternity
—T. S. Eliot
Reading Jim Rettig's article, "Art for Everyone," reminded me what a pleasureeading Jim Rettig's article, "Art for Everyone," reminded me what a pleasure it has been to spend the working days of the past twenty years in a facility that honors and displays fine art, and, in fact, cohabits with an art gallery. The Greer Galleries at Ferrum College have offered our patrons — and our staff — access to an exceptional variety of exhibits just a few steps from the reference room. There is an annual rhythm in the shows, with guest artists giving way to theme shows followed by student exhibits and rounded out by summer faculty shows. Each new selection of work refreshes our taste for creative efforts, and allows us to pause just enough to be reminded of the larger questions of life so often mentioned in our book collection but so seldom considered during working hours.
It has also been a pleasure to extend this opportunity to enjoy art outside our galleries by hanging art in hallways, lobbies, offices, lounges, and even in our stacks. While we cannot change this part of our collection as often as the galleries, generous donations from artists and selective purchasing of student works have allowed us to replace most of the somber portraits of forgotten dignitaries with paintings, prints, and photographs that draw the eyes and soothe or stimulate the minds of weary readers and computer lab users when they need it most. In fact you probably have your own memories of looking up, in the midst of grim concentration on study or work, and seeing a work of art with an appreciation that is born of being caught off guard by sheer beauty. Those moments of re- flection and appreciation are something our patrons and our coworkers deserve.
In fact you probably have
your own memories of …
being caught off guard
by sheer beauty.
One public library in Hampton Roads was able to offer a unique service some years ago: a circulating art collection. A group of paintings had been donated to the library specifically for circulation. With more than enough art to fill the library walls, the library was able to offer patrons their choice of one painting per household to check out for one month, with the possible selections displayed all over the library. This not only allowed patrons to brighten their homes with intriguing paintings, it also ensured that the art displayed on the library's walls was constantly changing. Unfortunately, loss eventually forced the library to discontinue this practice, but it was enjoyed immensely while still in operation, particularly by those who could not otherwise afford to hang fine art.
With this in mind, perhaps the continuing expansion of libraries into new and popular formats might one day take in art as well. A more cost-effective program for sharing art with patrons both in the library and at home might be implemented using prints in poster frames. Likewise, with many patrons possessing posters of their own that they no longer wish to display, a poster exchange or donation program might take place in a library's lobby, similar to the paperback swap or ongoing book sale offered in some locales.
At the same time, just as libraries circulate newspapers and magazines online, technology is already available to allow us to get great visual art into our users' homes. Libraries that participate in ARTstor, for instance, have a virtual, around-theclock museum available for their patrons to use on site or online. There are also many free digital collections sponsored by libraries, and they often include sound files and videos as well as digital photographs. Libraries, whether brick and mortar or virtual, are logical places to display and enjoy art.
We conclude with a note of thanks to Lydia Williams of Longwood University for coordinating our coverage of the twelfth annual conference of the VLA Paraprofessional Forum. As always, Lydia had the help of the VLAPF Executive Board, and she selected photographs from an epic collection by Pierre Courtois. Nevertheless, her dedication and timeliness deserve recognition, and they reflect the level of quality fostered by VLAPF.