Trent Miller is both an artist and a librarian. He works in the youth services section and as Gallery Coordinator at the Central Madison Public Library, and as you’ll read below in the questionnaire he took for us in the spring of 2011, the library influences his work as an artist. However, his work as an artist also influences his library work.
Trent’s many contacts in the art world help keep the gallery space at Central buzzing. In his time at Central, the library has shown a range of well-known artists and artists who are just starting out. Trent says his favorite thing about the library as gallery space is that it provides people access to art that wouldn’t be found in an art museum, and gives patrons who might not go to a commercial gallery a chance to enjoy art. One early 2011 show, “The Beast in Me“, which Trent curated with his wife, poet J.L. Conrad, brought in artwork by graduate students in the Art Department of UW-Madison. The show received a great response from the public, and allowed the graduate students who had never shown in a library before to interact with people in the community who they may not have otherwise. Talking to Trent, it seems that creating these connections between art, the people who make it, and the public are what he’s really excited about when it comes to his work as Gallery Coordinator.
What kind of work do you do?
I am a painter. I primarily work in oil paint, but also use gouach, acrylic, ink, charcoal, and other media. You can see pictures of my work here: www.trentmillerart.com
What is/has been your relationship to libraries?
I have used public libraries throughout my life. I remember going as a young child and all the way through high school, college, and to this day.
I have worked in libraries for about 10 years now. I got my first library job as a teen librarian because of my background in art education. With this experience I have continued to work in libraries as I have moved to new cities. I currently work in the youth services department at The Central Madison Public Library. I also run the gallery at The Central Madison Public Library. I like the library environment and feel that it mixes well with being an artist. I am always exploring new ideas etc through books that come through the library.
Have libraries informed or inspired your work? If so, how?
I would say that libraries have informed my work quite a bit. There are many great resources on the internet, but for me books are still the way to go when looking at images of other artists work. I know this isn’t always possible especially with newer artists work. But for example, if I am trying to study the paintings of Charles Burchfield a book is a much bigger help. Of course seeing the work in person is always the best scenario. In addition I find myself checking out all kinds of books, cd’s, and movies that are not directly related to visual art. Many of these items serve as jumping off points for my own drawings and paintings. Without a library I wouldn’t have the access to these materials. For example, last year I ran across a book about the inventor Nikola Tesla at the library. From this I dug deeper and requested more books and movies related to Tesla. When I find something of interest I keep digging and eventually it can make its way into my drawings/paintings.
Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?
For me libraries are an amazing source of free knowledge and source material. I can investigate as much as I want and the price is free!
What can libraries do to serve artists?
Libraries can have a consistently strong and organized gallery schedule to serve artist and the public. Libraries can also offer spaces for artists to give presentations and workshops.
As an artist, what would your ideal library look like?
As an artist my ideal library would have:
2) a designated space for installation and also video work.
3) a possible art checkout program for customers.
4) a community workspace for artists to use within the library. I would love to see a printshop mixed into a public library. Something similar to Silver Buckel Press at UW. I mean you are asking for ideal here so I’m giving you best case scenario.
What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?
When I hear the term library as incubator I think of something like the printshop that I mention in the previous question. I know that at the new central library we are talking about a small recording studio space, and computer equipment to do podcasts, photo editing, etc. I think that these kinds of collaborative spaces speak to the idea of incubator.
What specific libraries have played a role in your work? Are there things (spaces/staff/collections/programs) that stand out to you about these libraries?
I have worked at three libraries and used public and university libraries in everyplace I have lived. Since I am in a unique situation as artist, gallery director, and librarian this is a tough question for me. As an artist I would say, as I mentioned before, that all of the libraries I have used over the years have helped primarily by having lots of great materials for me to check out.
What resources do you use in your library?
As a customer I check out lots of materials and come to some programs at the library. As a librarian and gallery director I obviously help to plan events and show others how to use the many resources that the library has to offer.
How do you find out about events or resources at your library(s)?
Since I’m at the library pretty much every day I can easily find out about all of the programs going on. I’m also a fan of the library on facebook and subscribe to the library blog through google reader.
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