It’s our pleasure to welcome back Mel Kolstad to the Library as Incubator Project. Today Mel fills us in on what she’s been up to during her artist residency at the Appleton Public Library in Appleton, Wisconsin. We love that Mel’s work continues to be deeply inspired by libraries and the “detritus” that comes into the library via returned library books. Enjoy! ~Laura

by Mel Kolstad

Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of creating a 7-part series called The Detritus Project for Library as Incubator Project.  In a conversation with Laura and Erinn, I thought it would be neat to find out what happened when I had the circulation department at the Fond du Lac Public Library save every bit of “detritus” that came back in from returned library books.  

WOWIE!

We were SHOCKED by how much came back to us.  It didn’t take long to fill a medium-sized box, and in tandem with those seven blog posts, I created this multi-media piece with the “detritus” that was found, which I donated to the library.

I had so much fun with this project that I knew I wanted to continue it in other iterations.  So in 2016, I curated a community-wide project where participants created art with even MORE saved detritus.  It was a huge hit, with over 25 artists participating.

But I STILL wanted more.  When the opportunity arose to apply for the artist-in-residence program at the Appleton Public Library, I jumped at it, and I used my Detritus Project idea for my application.  Very luckily, I was accepted, and for the months of September and October of 2017, I was the resident.  My approach was fourfold – I created a 40-piece exhibit made entirely of the “detritus” that the APL saved for me;

I gave a lecture about how the Library as Incubator project did indeed serve as an incubator for this ongoing project;

I taught a collage class using the detritus;

and I gave a demonstration about how I used the detritus in my own work.

People were fascinated by the things that come back in returned library books (it’s really the most amazing thing about the entire process!) and working with these materials really opened their eyes to myriad possibilities when it comes to making art with recycled materials.  It is my hope that some folks also visited their library with new eyes and a renewed sense of the fantastic resources available to them.

Many thanks must go to the entire staff of the Appleton Public Library, but especially Kristi Helmkamp, who served as my “mentor” for the entire residency.  I am so honored to be a part of the residency program and to utilize library detritus once again!

Mel Kolstad is an artist, speaker, instructor and arts advocate who makes her home in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She is a printmaker, collagist, fiber artist, and papermaker. She is also delighted to be a Certified Papermaker for Arnold Grummer, Inc.; the membership chair of Wisconsin Visual Artists – Northeast Chapter; and curator for the Langdon Divers Gallery, located inside the Fond du Lac Public Library.

Mel has participated in many artist residencies throughout Wisconsin and also teaches various classes all over the state. You can view her artwork and find a listing of her upcoming classes on her website, melkolstad.com.

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