Art enhances new Dayton Metro Library Northwest Branch

Four artistic creations inspired by Dayton Art Institute pieces

There’s no way the community can begin to thank all those responsible for the amazing art that’s in the process of being created and installed in the new — and renovated — Dayton Metro Libraries.

The “ReImagining Works” project, in collaboration with the Dayton Art Institute, is encouraging talented local artists to dream up artwork that reflects each of the libraries and its particular neighborhood. You can see the latest additions at the new Northwest Branch that opened Friday at the corner of Philadelphia Drive and Hillcrest Avenue.

While this particular library was created to serve patrons of the consolidated Dayton View, Ft. McKinley and Northtown-Shiloh branches, we’re certain that library-lovers throughout the Miami Valley will enjoy seeing and and experiencing this state-of-the-art facility. At 30,000 square feet, it will be the largest branch in the system and is the first totally new library to be built in Montgomery County since 2000.

The artwork that enhances the space could never have been commissioned without the generosity of an anonymous donor’s unrestricted gift of $1 million. It’s thanks to the library’s executive director, Tim Kambitsch, and his board of directors that the decision was made to use the funds for new artwork by local artists.

Typically, Kambitsch said, the library works with donors to determine how their donations can best serve both the donor’s and library’s interests.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to consult the donor as the person is no longer living,” Kambitsch explained. “Because it was a significant bequest, the library’s board didn’t want the funds to be used for routine expenses. This donor’s attorney, a family friend, helped us to honor the donor with exceptional enhancements of our new facilities. The result is a perfect gift to both the community and local artists.”

How it works

The idea for “ReImagining Works” is to use art from the Dayton Art Institute’s permanent collection as inspiration for local artists. The Dayton Art Institute’s Susan Anable is the project manager.

“It was very forward-thinking to incorporate art from the ground up, instead of having it just be an afterthought,” notes Anable, who said artists within a 250-mile radius were welcome to submit proposals. “Art gives a building life. It makes it warm and inviting. And it makes that building unique.”

For the Northwest Branch, Anable explained, the library’s art committee chose six works from the DAI collection. Then the community voted to select the final two pieces. Those chosen were a Kuosi Elephant Mask Costume — made of fabric, fur, hair, beads, ivory, feathers and twine — and a carved gray stone Persian Relief Fragment from Persepolis that dates from 518-465 BCE. Stone relief carvings were also prominently featured at Fairview High School, which stood on the site of the new library.

Artists were also asked to research each library’s neighborhood and to incorporate the ambiance of that neighborhood into their proposed artwork. For the Northwest branch, the total art budget was $45,000. Commissions ranged from $5,000 to $20,000.

A tour of the Northwest Library artists

Virginia Kistler’s intricate sculpture is suspended above the library’s cafe and looks like a circular chandelier. It’s 10 feet in diameter and is made of of rubber, stainless steel and wood.

“My work is a contemporary take on the traditional craft of textiles, inspired by the Relief Fragment from Persepolis and the Kuosi Society Costume,” Kistler explained. “Like many Persian and Bamileke textiles, I employed the use of radial symmetry. If you look closely at the work, you will see textile patterns that are inspired by both cultures.”

Kistler, who is from Columbus, employs the use of two-dimensional imagery that serves as the inspiration or starting point for her three-dimensional sculpture. She designs her work using CADD and modeling software and utilizes contemporary fabrication techniques, such as laser cutting and 3D printing.

The kids will love the playful and colorful elephant painting located near the children’s room. Created by Amy Kollar Anderson of Dayton, it’s titled, “Marketplace of the Mind,” which is also the library’s motto. The piece is acrylic and copper foil on linen.

Anderson, who often paints in a surrrealistic style and uses metallic paint and glitter, said her artwork pays homage both to the history of Fairview High School and the DAI’s elephant mask and costume. A mother elephant and her calves — carrying baskets of fruit — frolic in front of a structure inspired by the front entrance of the old high school. Ask your children if they can find the four Bulldogs on the piece — the Bulldog was the Fairview High School mascot. The decorative border and patterning are drawn from the Kuosi Elephant Costume.

One of the welcoming features of the library is a cozy reading room complete with fireplace. Marsha Monroe Pippenger of Dayton created “Spaces Between Stones,” two paper collage-on-canvas triptychs that flank the fireplace and represent the three small library branches that merged to become the Northwest Branch.

“Like the stone Relief Fragment from Persepolis, the viewer sees fragments of wall and ‘spaces between stones’ in my work,” Pippenger explained. ” I see walls as positive rather than negative symbols of community, and just as the leaders of Persepolis united their empire, the double triptych design and architectural composition allude to the union of three unique neighborhoods — Northtown Shiloh, Dayton View/Salem and Ft. McKinley — into one library branch.”

Her collages, which often incorporate natural materials and earthenware fragments, are created through a process of building and layering, of adding and taking away.

On the day I got a sneak peak at the new library, artist Francis Schanberger of Dayton was installing his work, “Scatter Hoard,” on the walls of the Quiet Reading Area. His photographic quilt, printed on handmade Japanese paper called “washi,” was created using historic photographic methods and features images of nature.

“I was drawn to the textile designs in the central part of the Kuosi Society Costume,” Schanberger said. “There are diamond shapes set within other diamond shapes with alternating cool and warm hues. I decided to employ photographic methods that produce very different colors to echo this effect. “

He said the cyanotype process produces the cool blue hue and the Vandyke process produces the warm chocolate brown hue. “My photographs of maple seeds and burr oak acorns are assembled in a quilt like pattern of these alternating colors.”

Schanberger, who has been photographing since fourth grade when he presented a homemade, long focal length pinhole camera as his science project, is especially interested in historical photographic processes and the intersections between science and art.

Other artwork

As you stroll through the new library, you’ll see other artwork as well:

  • The colorful entrance to the children’s area and its meadow theme was designed by Englewood artist Terry Rasor of TER Designs. Rasor, a teacher at St. Christopher’s, has made exhibit pieces for other area organizations including the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. The fabric on the four chairs in front of Rosor’s meadow-themed portal is by popular Cincinnati wild-life artist Charlie Harper.
  • Those who had a difficult time watching the old Fairview High School be torn down will be glad to know that the new library now houses the beautiful Rookwood fountain dedicated to principals Don D. Longnecker and Theresa Folger. In this case, the appreciation goes to Robert Mousaian, class of ‘64, who offered to salvage and restore the fountain before he realized how heavy it was. “Along with Al Donaldson, we cut through concrete block and brick to remove it,” Mousaian said. ” I rented a forklift to remove it from the building and felt guilty driving an industrial forklift down the halls of my alma mater where it used to be a sin to even scuff a wall!”
  • In addition, the library’s first long-term Opportunity Space partner is the Funk Music Hall of Fame and Exhibition Center. The Funk Center will host rotating displays and programs related to Dayton’s funk legacy and the history of funk music through the fall.

Northwest branch manager Sharon Taste said she’s hopeful that those who come to the new library, will have a “candy store experience.”

“When you go into a candy store, you have so many things that capture your interest that it’s difficult to decide what to choose,” she said. “This library will bring hope in so many ways to so many people in our community.”

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