The Library as Incubator Project is pleased to feature Mel Kolstad, collagist and member of artists’ collective Fond du Lac Visual Arts in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. – Laura

Mel Kolstad

Featured artist Mel Kolstad. Photo by Patrick Flood.

How do you identify yourself as an artist (poet, fiction writer, painter, photographer, etc.)?

I am a collagist/ephemeraologist; I create collages from vintage ephemera.

What is/has been your relationship to libraries?

Ever since I can remember, the library has played an important part in my life – as a kid, I practically lived at the Ashwaubenon branch of the Brown County Public Library; as a college student I would lose myself in the shelves of the Library Learning Center at UWGB; and now our artists’ collective, Fond du Lac Visual Arts, curates the Langdon Divers Gallery at the Fond du Lac Public Library’s main branch.  I can’t imagine my life without libraries!

Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?

Mel Kolstad's "Joy of Music".

“Joy of Music” by Mel Kolstad. Collage, created from linen book cover and handmade paper embedded with notes from sheet music.

I’ve always enjoyed reading the huge coffee table art books at the library, because there’s no way I could afford them all myself.  Now that our group is literally a part of the library, it influences my work in countless ways.

Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?

When the Fond du Lac Arts Council was trying to find a place where we could continually hold exhibits, the library seemed like a natural fit.  The head librarian, Ken Hall, has been a supporter of the arts during his entire tenure, so it just worked out.

What can libraries do to serve artists?

I think our group is a prime example of how libraries can serve artists!  Public art and libraries go hand in hand.  Also, libraries have vast resources for artists. The libraries that have a community liaison, like Terri Fleming at the Fond du Lac Public Library, can help promote artists in the community.

Mel Kolstad's "Our City Library."

“Our City Library” by Mel Kolstad. Collage created using discarded library materials and children’s book.

As an artist, what would your ideal library look like?

I am very lucky – I feel like I am working with the ideal library!  The FDLPL has been tremendously supportive since our partnership was formed in November of 2010.

What resources do you use in your library(s)?

I use the periodicals quite often; the art books are a favorite; the reference section, particularly old city directories and microfiche, have served me very well.

How do you find out about events or resources at your library(s)?

I am a subscriber to our library’s newsletter, which is updated at least bi-monthly (sometimes more often if needed) – also, I still subscribe to our local newspaper, The Reporter – they’re a good friend to the library and vice versa.

What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?

As our culture continues to evolve, I see our libraries naturally becoming community centers as well as places of learning.  By introducing artists to the mix and making them a permanent fixture in the library arena, awareness of the arts will become more prevalent.  This is especially necessary in rural areas.  When a community is subjected to and surrounded by art, acceptance of all types of art will happen more readily and in turn more children will be exposed to the fine arts.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially as arts programs are being cut from schools’ budgets.

Read about and view more of Mel’s work on her website, melkolstad.com. To connect with the Fond du Lac Visual Arts collective, visit their Facebook page. To learn more about the Fond du Lac Public Library in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, please visit their website.

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