VOICES: Libraries and artists in our community are the agents of change

Our community must value artists for creative spaces to exist. One way this can be done is to allocate resources and opportunities to them. Artists of all mediums deserve to exist within an economy that supports them because their craft is viable. Community members can help create the world they imagine by creating spaces they feel do not exist yet — it has everything to do with tapping into one’s imagination and setting up action steps behind the vision.

Libraries can support the activation of one’s imagination by providing them with a plethora of tools and information. Libraries hold a special and unique position within every community; it is a place for everyone to visit — people from all walks of life find themselves at the library and benefit from its resources and programming. Because of this unique position libraries hold, it is fertile ground for innovative ideas to flourish. Dayton Metro Library (DML) has created art- and creative-based programming that would be seemingly disruptive to the normal culture of libraries. However, unprecedently, we have been able to support more local artists by way of creative programs.

For example, DML, in partnership with WYSO Yellow Springs and the International College of Broadcasting, has reimagined music and books by creating a spin-off version of NPR’s Tiny Desk performances called “Tiny Stacks,” which invites local artists to perform amongst the book stacks at one of our 17 locations Now in its third year, Tiny Stacks is a paid opportunity for selected and participating musicians/performers, which is important because artistry deserves to be financially supported. It is an opportunity for our patrons to experience the rich and diverse talent Dayton has to offer. It introduces communities to new artists, offers them the chance to connect directly with creatives who are passionate about music, and gives them an opportunity to see the vast resources DML offers.

Tiny Stacks has been such an industrious initiative and patrons have enjoyed the free programming. It is a unique opportunity because it provides the community with free, innovative, creative, fun, and joyful spaces — who would not want to live in a world like that?

I believe libraries are pioneers for how we re-imagine the world we live in, especially for artists. Sustainable change is often driven from artists who shift the culture by way of hearts and minds, which in turn changes policies and laws that influence how we experience everyday life. Libraries and artists in our community are the agents of change: if they work together, anything is possible.

Mariah Johnson is the Dayton Metro Library Cultural Programming Manager.

2024 Tiny Desk Performances:

Afrofuturism and Dayton, Ohio

Krista Franklin: "Transatlantic Turntable-ism." Collage on canvas. 2005.

"Afrofuturism demands society look beyond the present into worlds yet explored, where the fullness of Blackness blooms without limitation." - Read Russell Florence's story about Dayton's many connections to Afrofuturism. Throughout February, Ideas & Voices will feature artists and others to discuss our region’s contributions to Afrofuturism. You are invited to follow along.

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