The Library as Incubator Project is pleased to welcome visual artist and poet Alison Stone. In this interview, she discusses the role that libraries have served, for her personally and in her creative work. - Laura
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How do you identify yourself as an artist and what sort of work do you create?
I am a poet and a painter. Right now more of a poet, since I have young children and painting requires more uninterrupted time.
What is your relationship to libraries throughout your life? Throughout your work?
I have loved libraries since I was a kid. I don’t remember any of the play groups or activities that they have now, but I loved going to pick out books. My mom was a reader as well, so we went together and each got books. They had a summer reading program with a path, and each time you read a book you got to take a step on the path. I always finished the path well before the summer ended and had to get another sheet.
Libraries helped me when I was doing my paintings for the Stone Tarot. This was before the internet, so it was harder to find images to use as references. I looked through a lot of art books and nature books. I ended up finding some of my models for cows in the supermarket dairy section, though.
Libraries are still a central part of my life. I take both my kids for programs or just free reading. My younger daughter pulls books at random and decides if she likes the covers. We’ve discovered some gems that way. I can sometimes sneak off to the poetry section, which saves me money. Also, I am out of book shelves so I’m trying to keep book buying to a minimum. And I love interlibrary loan! I order obscure poetry books and they can get almost all of them. It’s a wonderful service.
Tell us the story of a specific project that was incubated by a library– how did it start, and how did the library help to bring it to life?
As I mentioned, when I was working on the Stone Tarot, I looked at lots of art books. Sometimes I was looking for a specific image; other times I just wanted to browse and get inspired. I also looked through books on the tarot. Now everything is online, but back then, it was the only way I knew to get all that information.
What can libraries do to serve artists like you?
Make the computer system easier to navigate. Often I only have a few minutes that my kids are occupied, and if the librarian also has trouble using the computer system, which happens often, I don’t get what I was looking for.
As an artist, what would your ideal library be like?
What a great question! I would say – lots of books (obviously), art on the walls, comfy chairs. Fresh air. My library just had a huge renovation, and it’s gorgeous, but all the windows are sealed. Open windows help creativity.
There would be big pillows so I could sit on the floor, and maybe classical music playing. I know this isn’t practical because people are allergic, but a cat (like at many bookstores) would be awesome. Lots of plants, too.
What resources and services do you use at your library? How do you find out about them? How do they help to support your work?
I love the reference librarians. They’ve helped me so much, especially since the new computer system is so difficult. And they’re friendly, which is great. I go to events at the library (lots of children’s ones, also adult poetry readings.) The library even let me use the space to start a poetry reading series.
Have you shown your work in a library?
I’ve never had the opportunity, but I would jump at the chance to show my art there. My book is at the library and was displayed as a featured book for awhile.
What does “library as incubator” mean to you?
Incubators grow things, and libraries helped grow my love of reading.
Alison Stone is a licensed psychotherapist, widely published poet, Kripalu yoga teacher, and Reiki Master. In addition to the tarot, Alison’s paintings have covered other themes including goddesses, abstracts, and jungle scenes. Her paintings have been exhibited at the Danforth Museum of Art, Ceres Gallery, Kripalu Center, and other galleries and venues in Manhattan, New York State, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia Beach, and London. Her first book of poems, They Sing at Midnight, won the Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award for 2003 and is now available. She maintains a private practice in New York City. For more information about Alison’s work, visit the Stone Tarot website.