Today I am thrilled to share a conversation with Andrea Kazilionis from the Wells Public Library in Wells, Maine. Andrea fills us in on a partnership with the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, a local art museum. This is a great example of a library working closely with an arts institution to offer high-quality, expert cultural and educational programming. Enjoy! ~Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Can you give us the elevator speech for the Wells Library / OMAA programming partnership? What kinds of events or resources make up this partnership, and what outcomes are you hoping to see as the result?

Andrea Kazilionis (AK): The Wells Public Library partnered with the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in order to offer a four-part “Arts and Education” program series. This series features two art history lectures at the library followed by two site visits to the museum. We hope that this program series will allow library patrons to indulge their artistic interests and gain some in-depth insight into the current exhibits at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. We also hope to raise community awareness about the museum and its stunning collections.

LAIP: What was the impetus for forming this partnership / program?

AK: This partnership began as I explored ways to develop cultural education programming at the library. I know from conversing with patrons that the greater Wells region is home to many artists and art enthusiasts. That caused me to take a closer look at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. I had never had the chance to visit, knowing it only as one of the area museums for which the library provided day passes. I navigated my way to the OMAA website and found that the museum was already working with several other area non-profits. This prompted me to reach out to the museum’s education director, Jill Burke. Jill and I met at the museum to discuss a collaboration. Not only was I wowed by the museum’s phenomenal ocean side setting, but equally impressed by Ms. Burke’s suggestions for partnership programming. We combined the library’s monthly lunch and learn program with the museum’s guided tours to come up with the series we’re currently running.

LAIP: What has the response been like so far from the community to the program?

AK: The community response to this program series has been enormous. The first program in the series filled nearly every spare chair in the library, and the follow-up site visit to the museum was big enough to merit two tour groups! There were many familiar faces at the events, but plenty of new patrons as well. The program series has been promoted in our local newspapers, so it seems we’ve caught the attention of individuals who don’t necessarily come to the library on a regular basis. Folks who have attended programs in the series have been asking that I provide more adult arts programs in the future.

LAIP: Every program and collaboration encounters challenges at some point. What are some that have come up for Wells Library / OMAA?

AK: Luckily, the challenges that we’ve faced in the planning and implementation of this program series have been quite manageable. Our biggest issue was having to scramble to make room for an unexpectedly large number of attendees at our first lecture. The other difficulty was communicating the program details to patrons. We wanted to make it clear through our marketing that two of the programs were held at the library and two were held at the museum. Luckily, patrons asked questions when they had them and we were able to clarify details without any problems.

LAIP: What advice do you have for libraries who are interested in approaching arts institutions about potential partnerships?

AK: Librarians looking to partner with art institutions should start by exploring what type of arts programming has worked for their library in the past. I’m fairly new to the Wells Public Library, so when I wanted to put together some type of arts program I first looked at library scrapbooks from years past to see if my library had ever worked with any galleries or museums. Next, I considered the museum passes that we circulate at the library. I knew that our day passes for the Ogunquit Museum of American Art were always being signed out, so I knew my patrons had an interest in that particular institution. After that, it was all about communication! I recommend that librarians dive in by contacting the education or outreach coordinators at nearby arts institutions and start inquiring about potential partnerships. If you approach potential collaborators with a warm smile and an open mind, I think they’ll be more than willing to work with you.

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