Where Art, Learning and Communities Come Together
All libraries offer a few special experiences, like the chance to hear the soft swish of a page turning, see a vibrant color display on shelves and breathe in the clean, exhilarating scent of a book. However, Plano’s Harrington Library also offers a little something extra designed to spark creativity–the 18st AIRSpace program.
The Plano Public Library System launched 18st AIRSpace at Harrington Library recently, and hundreds of people of all ages have already come in to meet the artists, participate in artist-taught workshops and create make-and-take projects. This is the public’s chance to learn how to paint, bind books, create artist books and more, all while enjoying a peaceful afternoon in the library.
“The 18st AIRSpace is a natural extension of the downtown Plano arts scene,” said Beth Morgan, 18st AIRSpace coordinator and the graphic designer for the libraries. “This is a place to learn, share and create.”
Visitors can walk through the designated exhibit space with floor-to-ceiling windows to get to know the artist’s work, then create one’s own masterpiece. The featured artist designs the simple make-and-take projects and teaches workshops, offering participants the chance to create an easy or more extensive project based on the artist’s unique style.
“The artists create a relaxing atmosphere for creativity,” said Beth. “There is a wonderful spirit of cooperation and people leave with smiles on their faces.”
“It’s been rewarding to see our community excited to have art in the library,” added Melissa Perez, library manager for Harrington Library. “They appreciate the opportunity to experience art in different ways.”
The 18st AIRSpace program received initial funding from Friends of the Plano Public Library. They also received a $75,000 Art Spark grant from Texas State Library and Archives Commission, which will fund the program through next August, provide for art programs and enhance exhibit spaces at the libraries for community artists.
Fine art photographer Sheila Cunningham combines her love for art and passion for books during her time as featured artist-in-residence through November. She will teach how to create intricate three-dimensional pop-up and flag artist books. “The cool thing about artist books is that whatever art medium you work in, it can be incorporated into a book,” said Sheila. “It’s great to see how people take the projects and make them their own.”
In December and January, Rae Pleasant will teach how to create storybook characters from props; Nuray Fuller will teach paper marbling in February; VET will teach book art sculptures in March; and Lisa Covert will teach wet felting, and weaving and quilling paper in April and May. Anyone wanting to sign up to be an artist can apply online in December for a one, two or three-month residency. From there, a jury made up of members of the Plano art community and library staff will review the applications and artists’ work and interview the candidates to make selections for the residencies.
“The AIRSpace brings people together and showcases the library as more than books,” said Beth. “People from all walks of life come in, learn about art and create something tangible that expresses their artistic sides.”
This program is a great way to admire others’ work, while making things never dreamed possible before. That’s not something available at just any library.
18st AIRSpace workshops coming up include “Pop-Up Books” on Nov. 12 and “Flag Books” on Nov. 20 with artist Sheila Cunningham. Artist Rae Pleasant will teach “Studio Props Portraits & Characters” on Dec. 10 and “Storyboards & Comics” on Dec. 18.