Providing grants, programs, and services to the artists and audiences of Tompkins County for over 25 years

Tompkins County Public Library

Grants: GAP Grant

Finding “Identity” and Art in the Familiar

As a recent 2018 GAP grant recipient, the Tompkins County Public Library has integrated a brand-new series of art exhibits that line their many walls.

The Community Arts Partnership’s allocated GAP grant is provided by the New York State Council of the Arts and is designed for artistic organizations developing projects that reach a wide audience. Such criteria make the Tompkins County Public Library’s art exhibits a natural fit, allowing for the library to fund four curators who have each compiled dynamic collections of work from an array of emerging artists. The funds direct support of the curators is a novel approach that yields thoughtful, well-designed exhibits that create opportunities for roughly fifty emerging artists. This effort came to fruition through the brainstorming of the library’s arts committee, with large involvement from Kerry Barnes, the project founder, and Yvette Rubio, the Art Exhibit Coordinator. The four, three-month exhibitions each allude, in some way, to “identity,” a term rich in interpretation and relevant to many artists’ work.

The first exhibition, “Embodying the Familiar,” on display from January to March 2018, takes inspiration from the intersectionality of female identity. Curator, Kendra Aquavella, has mobilized multiple mediums from the work of four local artists to explore the many perspectives embedded into being female. From paper and canvas, to collages and shadowboxes, to interactive art, the pieces showcase a nuanced interpretation in both content and form. With the collection lined along the “Avenue of Friends,” library residents can explore female portraits and objects closely akin to girl and womanhood; each work in this exhibition is designed to deepen our understanding of female storytelling.

Throughout April and extending until June, you can find the library’s second curator, Rance’s exhibition on display. Rance has chosen to implement the intergenerational element of community into the collection by planning a series of workshops for children, adults, and teens at Southside Community Center. These workshops intend to facilitate a reflection on the theme, “identity,” through different artmaking modes: drawing, painting, collage, photography, fashion, and found art. The classes will serve as the birthplace for art that will appear in the final collection.

The library’s summer months, from July to September, will host curator, Laura Rowely’s, “Hidden No More” exhibition, which will tackle the barriers that complicate human potential. She asks through this collection: what prevents others from recognizing us as full, fleshed out individuals? Rowley hopes to gather a group of artists from throughout the Tompkins County area, and plans to incorporate pieces that take form through 2D and 3D structures, sound, video, and writing.

The last segment of the library’s 2018 series, from October to December, will be led by Frances Gallardo, the library’s first ever year-round, artist-in-residence. She will be offering workshops in the new makerspace, a lab equipped with exciting new tools like a laser printer, sewing machines, an audio lab, and so much more. The hope is to provide an accessible place where library-goers can familiarize themselves with new equipment, while working in a setting where creativity and imagination is invited and employed.

The work and minds of both artists and curators offers a new dimension to this community space. The artwork becomes all the more accessible when situated in the familiar; it no longer has to be sought out, but instead stumbled upon, inviting varying levels of engagement. Additionally, the library extends to those looking for deeper interaction with more formal viewings, which prompt thoughtful conversation. Kerry Barnes sees this initiative as another avenue for fulfilling the library’s mission. The library is a truly powerful resource for this exhibit, whose paintings reflect many diverse perspectives on the subject of “Identity.”  Barnes comments that one of the library’s 2018 curators, Kendra Acquavella, says it best: “We love that exposing these multiple perspectives can help broaden our imagination, both in what we pursue for ourselves and how we consider one another.” And already, the art has been a catalyst for conversation; Yvette Rubio sees these emerging discussions as a lively feature of this project, as she reflects: “Art that causes controversy creates dialogue.” With the funding from Community Arts Partnership’s GAP grant, the library is entering exciting territory that offers the Ithaca community new means for growth together.