It's unlikely anyone will ever find a Picasso or a Monet at Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee, but artwork is becoming another reason to visit.
Five pieces commissioned from local artists went on display for the first time at the O'Plaine Road library last year. Donated money from private sources in a library trust fund covered the expense.
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Saying they want to enhance a visitor's experience and further the library's role as a place for culture, Warren-Newport officials are now in the market for more public art.
In the latest effort, students at Gurnee-area elementary and high schools will be sought for some of the art. The trust fund will be tapped for a commissioned piece from a professional artist for a 20-foot by 7-foot space between an audiovisual collection and the youth services desk, incorporating themes of knowledge, imagination and community, Executive Director Stephen Bero said.
Bero said the goal is to select an artist through a formal request for proposals and have the piece in the library by the end of June. He's also enthusiastic about the potential for the student art, which may feature up to two dozen pieces at once.
"We think it would be good to encourage the budding artists among the school-age children in our district, and (more public art) would add to the library board's wish to enlarge the library's role as a cultural center for the community," Bero said.
Warren-Newport isn't alone in its desire for more public art in Lake County.
Lake Zurich High School students last year created a mural made of 29 panels stretching 40 feet on an exterior wall of The Barn at Paulus Park. High school art teacher Matt Winkelman said it's hoped students will be called on for other, similar projects for public enjoyment in Lake Zurich.
At Gurnee's Warren-Newport library, major gifts totaling $90,000 were provided last year to the trust fund that, in part, went toward the initial five pieces of permanent public art, officials said. The library's nine-member art acquisition committee has been guiding the effort.
Melissa Pierson and Davis Bolton of Grayslake, Nina Weiss of Highland Park, Lake Bluff resident Sandra Bacon and Katrina Davis-Salazar of Gurnee were the artists selected last year to create the pieces that include a vase and paintings. They were present for a celebration of the library's first art acquisitions in October.
Davis-Salazar's "los espacios creados en la biblioteca" hangs behind the express checkout terminals in the front lobby. She said what's powerful about the library's artworks is how they may be viewed by different generations throughout the building.
"When I first heard that Warren-Newport Public Library was asking for art submissions, I was struck by the fact that this seems to be a microcosm of the influence art is beginning to have on our daily lives," said Davis-Salazar.
Bacon's mixed media "Reading Nature: McCullough Farm and the Warren-Newport Library" hangs in the board meeting room. "It is the tying together of an open nature journal with painted photographs, just as the library today is based on inspiration from the land and concepts from centuries ago," she wrote in describing her work.
Warren-Newport spokeswoman Janice Marsh said what's officially called the expendable trust fund is why the library can seek "to bring beautiful art to our visitors to enhance their library experience."
For the student art display still in the planning stages, Marsh said it's hoped the pieces will be up by August or September. Marsh, who's among the nine art acquisition committee members, said officials want systems that can be installed along a wall and allow for display of the pieces.
Committee member Linda McCarthy, an art instructor for Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50, and Marsh will develop procedures for monthly rotating exhibits. The pieces will be curated and installed by a featured local school's art teacher.
"We have a bit of planning to do before we formally announce the program and invite area schools to participate," she said.
Olivia Marie Gude, who's been involved in community public art for more than 25 years, said she was unaware of any Chicago-area libraries with significant collections, but she supports the concept. Gude is a professor in the school of art and art history at University of Illinois-Chicago.
"Of course, it makes sense to me that local community public libraries include art in their mission to bring ideas and culture to communities," Gude said.