Today’s feature comes to us from Rochester Public Library Arts Division librarian Judith Schewe. She writes about the marvelous program series called Caution! Artist @ Work!, which brings working artists into the library for demonstrations and supplemental public programs. We love the “pop-up”, laid-back nature of this program series! ~ Laura

by Judith Schewe

The Arts Division had not done too much original programming when I started working here in February 2011, so I suggested inviting an artist or musician to take part in a two hour demonstration of a work in progress.

The idea was that patrons could stroll by the artist/musician and either just watch the artist work or ask the artist questions. Some artists have actually used the demo to instruct patrons in a mini lesson, like watercolor or calligraphy. Staff of the Arts Division brainstormed about a name for the program and we thought about having caution tape roping off the artist and that lead to the “Caution! Artist @ Work!” program name.

The impetus for the program was to get more people to come to the Arts Division so that patrons could see all the great materials we have and to engage patrons in a very impromptu experience.

The program is almost too laid back for the participants to wrap their brains around. Artists literally just set up their things on a table and start working on a piece or musicians will play and interact with patrons, explaining the instrument, techniques, etc.

From a librarian’s perspective it is a very easy program to coordinate. The hardest thing about it is finding local artists to participate and that hasn’t really been that difficult. I cast a wide net and have several artists and musicians respond.

The participants are offered either a stipend or, in lieu of payment, a month’s use of our display cases in the Arts Division to promote their art. We have had some great displays including calligraphy, glass beading, fused glass and watercolors.

Woodcut artist Heather Swenson demonstrates her technique for Rochester Public Library patrons. Photo credit: Judith Schewe.

The program is still in the development stages and we hope to create a better following this year now that patrons are aware of it. We had a woodcut artist here this past June and one of the patrons who attended was a photographer who was beginning to lose his eyesight and wanted to learn more about a different medium that was more tactile. He was thrilled to be able to have a one-on-one conversation with woodcut artist Heather Swenson.

Check out the schedule for the 2012-2013 Caution! Artist at Work! series at the Rochester Public Library Arts Division blog.

We consider this a prime example of a “pop-up” arts program. Learn more about this kind of programming, and add your ideas for ways to leverage this casual but effective program style. We also have to give Rochester Public Library Arts Division a shoutout regarding their fabulous library blog, which is full of interesting resources. A fantastic way to showcase library programs, staff expertise, and collections.

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