Today we are so pleased to welcome artist Edith Abeyta to the Library as Incubator Project. Edith and her collaborator, Darnell Chambers, are just beginning a year as artists-in-residence at the Hazelwood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Edith and Darnell will document their residency with quarterly posts for the Incubator Project. Enjoy! ~ Laura

by Edith Abeyta

“Libraries are the largest public space in the U.S.” – Michael Balkenhol

Library patron at CLP-Hazelwood. Photo by Tresuin.

Library patron at CLP-Hazelwood. Photo by Tresuin.

On June 23, 2014, Darnell Chambers and I began a yearlong artist residency at the Hazelwood branch of the Carnegie Library Pittsburgh just two days after their relocation from the top floor of a two story cinder block brick building above a laundry mat and deli to a more than twice the size 2.4 million dollar renovated church three blocks east. This is the third site for the Hazelwood branch. The original Hazelwood Library was built in 1899. Like many libraries in Pittsburgh and its surrounding townships and boroughs it is a hub for the people who live in close proximity, most of whom are residents of the neighborhoods of Hazelwood and Glen Hazel.

Initiated by the Office of Public Art, the Artists in the Public Realm program offers artists the rare opportunity to work in/at a site for one year. The goal of the program is to develop a community determined public art project to be realized after the residency is completed. It is a two-phase project with time built in to make genuine connections to people in a specific place. As collaborators with the library and the public, we work together to determine the framework/structure/interaction the residency will follow.

The library staff, Michael Balkenhol, Kira Lees, Julie Moore, Theresa Nagy, Bob Perala, Duane Rentas, and Ellen Sikov led by MaryAnn McHarg are much more progressive and radical than we are as artists. Their view of the library, its services, role(s), information, purpose(s), significance(s) are much broader than our view. We are still stuck with a model of the library as a quiet repository for books offering programs that reinforce interactions with printed materials. Which year, decade or century this perception came from I am not sure. The early Carnegie libraries, some of which were built at the end of the 19th century, are large multi-purpose spaces with auditoriums, swimming pools, meeting rooms and shelves for books. They intended to be gathering places for the public.

And so, Darnell and I begin our transformation with small interjections of film screenings, drawing sessions, small-scale luncheons and the fabrication of benches, tables and planters for the outdoor event space. All with the intention of fostering conversation, exchange, collectivity and empowered public spaces in Hazelwood. You can find us at the library on Mondays and Saturdays from noon to 5pm and Wednesdays from 3 to 8pm.

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Edith Abeyta is a visual artist living in North Braddock, Pennsylvania. She combines post-consumer goods, particularly clothing, and participatory gestures to form temporary installations and sculptures that explore collectivity, labor, and exchange. She frequently collaborates with other visual artists, poets, scholars, and the public.

"Library Self Portrait" collage by Edith Abeyta.

“Library Self Portrait” collage by Edith Abeyta.

Born 1988 in San Diego, California, raised in Akron, Oh, and currently residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Darnell Chambers aspires to inspire African American culture through art. Chambers studied Media Arts and Animation at the renowned Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2006. There, he absorbed a broader knowledge of the act and process of imparting life, spirit and motion to drawing. Recognizing the importance of having a strong online presence, Chambers later studied Web Design and Interactive Media, where he graduated with skill in design, photography, and web development.

Influenced early in childhood by Sunday morning comic strips, like the Boondocks, Garfield, Get Fuzzy, and Zits, Chambers later became fond of artist such as Jean-Michael Basqiuat, CBabi Bayoc, Wangechi Mutu, and Gordon Parks. With self-dominance, Chambers empowers to conjoin the later with his personal assessment of social equality, historic relevance, and appliance of pure talent.


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