We’re delighted to feature this wonderful profile by Beth Lawry, the Customer Services Manager at the Main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, who launched a Staff Art Show six years ago.  It’s a great example of the library-as-incubator, and a wonderful celebration of National Library Week each year.  Enjoy!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Annual Staff Art Show

by Beth Lawry

There is so much talent in this institution—it’s amazing!

Created in 2007 to promote sharing the artistic talents of staff, the annual exhibit is now in its sixth year. Using an existing gallery in our Main Library, a variety of staff art work is displayed during the month of April and in recognition of National Library Week. We are proud to say we are now in our sixth year.

As Manager of an 18-20 person staff responsible for Customer Services (Circulation), I discovered that several of my staff were also artists.  It seemed a good starting point to get all library staff to think of each other ‘outside’ the normal definitions of clerks, librarians, support staff, and recognize that people had other talents and were not defined by their job title. This was designed as a staff-driven, staff-participant, staff-celebratory activity.

After we received administrative approval, several staff were selected to spearhead the gathering of art, permission forms, etc. Our gallery area was booked for the month of April to tie in with National Library Week. The first year we held the exhibit and produced a simple flyer of artists/works. We spread the word through our internal staff communications’ devices (Intranet, newsletter, emails) to recruit artists.

During February and March staff are recruited to display their artwork. Permission forms are used to develop the list of participants and art is collected one week before opening. Art is hung in April and, over the years, staff participation has averaged between 20-30 participants providing 50-60 pieces of art. The variety of art has really been a highlight—fabric work, quilting, glass, paintings, photography. We use beautiful glass display cases for the three-dimensional work and each piece of work carries an identifying tag with artist, title and medium used.

The addition of an ‘opening reception’ during National Library Week increased the staff interest and provided a perfect setting for people to talk to each other about their art. Learning a little about another person’s life (photographs from a trip to Tunisia, working as a graphic artist before becoming a librarian) creates unique bonds amongst people from different departments. Staff musicians were recruited to play for the reception and provide background music, often improvising with each other throughout the afternoon. Photos are taken at the reception and of all the artwork for archival purposes. The photos are then put into a slideshow which can be shared with staff who do not attend.

Although primarily created as a celebration of staff, the community has access to the gallery during the hours the library is open. Brochures are made available and signage indicates that these are staff contributors, and the current gallery highlight is featured on our website.

Several years we provided a guest book at the reception, garnering these great comments:

Thanks for the opportunity…

Enjoyed the creativity of the staff.

I love seeing everyone’s work!

What a talented group of people—so proud to know you!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the event—food, music, art, company—what could be better?

The staff art exhibit is one way the Library celebrates the talents of its staff, and helps everyone to step out of standard roles.

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