This post originally appeared on the LAIP in November, 2013. 

We’re delighted to welcome mixed-media artist Alice Walsh to the site today– when she began to study art, her home library supported her study, and then hooked her up with materials when she began using catalog cards in her work. Read on to learn more about Alice’s art and how she’s giving back! ~Erinn 

The Future Just Happened (detail)

The Future Just Happened (detail)

 My ideal library would be the heart of its community. ~Alice Walsh

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): So, tell us a little bit about your artistic training and your work.  Why did you choose books as your medium? What are you working on now that you’re excited about?

The Remedy of Books

“The Remedy of Books”

Alice Walsh (AW): My work unites my love of libraries with my love of mixed media.  My training has been through our local arts council, the Putnam Arts Council, and their exceptional professional instructors.

I use vintage discarded catalog cards in my current series, “Ex Libris:  Found Art From a Public Library.”    I look to the subject matter of the catalog cards for inspiration for artwork.  Some of the artwork is serious in nature, addressing themes such as civil rights and women’s rights.  Some of the artwork is whimsical in nature, such as an original origami sculpture inspired by a catalog card for a book about origami.  I shred some of the catalog cards to make pulp for handmade paper.  Then I make handmade books using that paper.  Other cards are used as a canvas to paint upon, as in the illuminated manuscripts series.

LAIP: Besides being full of the materials that clearly inspire you, how else have libraries informed your creative work?  Tell us about the first library you remember playing a part in your artistic development.

AW: Libraries inform my creative work with their collections and also their programs and community events.  While libraries have always been an important part of my life, wherever I lived, the Mahopac Public Library in Putnam County, New York, met my creative needs well when I began to study art, and work as an artist as an adult.    When the Mahopac Library was discarding its old card catalog, they offered me some of the cards to use in my artwork.

LAIP: What are your top five books you wish every library had available on the shelves?

AW: These are the books that have helped me, even though they are not specifically about the mixed media techniques I use.  These books are valuable to me because they inspire me and speak to artistic process.  And then there’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which de-mystified drawing for me and is generally useful.

  1.  Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
  2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
  3. Any book by (or illustrated by) Maira Kalman
  4. The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques
  5. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
"I Am What I Read - The Artist As Art"

“I Am What I Read – The Artist As Art”

LAIP: As an artist, what would your ideal library be like?  What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?

AW: My ideal library would be the heart of its community.  It would be open 7 days a week, including evenings, to serve as a community center for adults, children, seniors and families to learn about art.  It would have gallery space and meeting space for artist presentations and discussion.  It would host lectures and classes and workshops.  It would lend all forms of media.

LAIP: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

AW: My website is  My artwork is available to libraries, schools and galleries.  A student study guide is included for educational venues.

I recently started a business called “reDewey Designs.” The idea is to raise money for libraries through text art fabricated from the vintage catalog cards:  Each order generates a contribution to the public library in the customer’s community!


Alice Walsh headshotAlice C. Walsh lives and works in Carmel, New York.  She worked for over 20 years as an arts administrator of non-profit theatre companies, performing arts centers and public broadcasting.  She has been an associate producer of many Broadway and off-Broadway shows and is currently producing a musical stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. Walsh serves on the Board of Trustees of the Mahopac Public Library and New York Stage and Film Company. Work from her series “Ex Libris: Found Art From a Public Library” has been exhibited in various states throughout the U.S. and in Europe.

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