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updated: 4/11/2014 2:03 PM

Moving Picture: Elgin library artist builds cityscape

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  • Video: Moving Picture: Library Artist

  • Mary Amici-Kozi works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library. Her daily workflow is much like her career path. It starts small and she makes it bigger with ideas and execution. Some of her 3-D displays can take weeks to complete.

       Mary Amici-Kozi works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library. Her daily workflow is much like her career path. It starts small and she makes it bigger with ideas and execution. Some of her 3-D displays can take weeks to complete.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Graphic artist Mary Amici-Kozi works on a display of iconic Elgin buildings for the 140th anniversary display at the Gail Borden Public Library.

       Graphic artist Mary Amici-Kozi works on a display of iconic Elgin buildings for the 140th anniversary display at the Gail Borden Public Library.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • A model of the Elgin Tower Building stands taller than Mary Amici-Kozi, its creator. She works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library.

       A model of the Elgin Tower Building stands taller than Mary Amici-Kozi, its creator. She works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library.
    photos by John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Mary Amici-Kozi says whenever she sets up her displays in the Gail Borden Public Library, patrons will stop and talk about their connection to the artwork. Many people stopped her to tell their stories of their time in the Elgin buildings she recreated.

       Mary Amici-Kozi says whenever she sets up her displays in the Gail Borden Public Library, patrons will stop and talk about their connection to the artwork. Many people stopped her to tell their stories of their time in the Elgin buildings she recreated.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • "This job, it does keep you moving," says Mary Amici-Kozi, who works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library. "It's a physical job."

       "This job, it does keep you moving," says Mary Amici-Kozi, who works in the creative services department of the Gail Borden Public Library. "It's a physical job."
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Mary Amici-Kozi sets up a large display of iconic Elgin buildings in the lobby area of the Gail Borden Public Library. She works in the creative services department as a graphic artist.

       Mary Amici-Kozi sets up a large display of iconic Elgin buildings in the lobby area of the Gail Borden Public Library. She works in the creative services department as a graphic artist.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Amici-Kozi cuts a print of the exterior of the Elgin National Watch Company for a model of the building to go in her display of iconic Elgin buildings at the Gail Borden Library.

       Amici-Kozi cuts a print of the exterior of the Elgin National Watch Company for a model of the building to go in her display of iconic Elgin buildings at the Gail Borden Library.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

In Mary Amici-Kozi's world, easy ideas turn into detailed plans, simple beginnings turn into intricate schedules, and small starts turn into big finishes.

As the graphic artist at the Elgin Gail Borden Public Library, Amici-Kozi had a humble start as a part-time assistant in a branch of the marketing department.

She is now the go-to artist in the creative services arm of the department. She brings to life the current themes in the library with colorful, three-dimentional, sometimes life-size walk-though displays.

"There are always different things coming up to do," she says of her job. "It's how we portray the story, how to get people interested."

Her time is spent on simple 90-minute poster creations, but also on models or displays that may take weeks to complete.

A recent display of 3-D Elgin buildings to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the library was one of the more time-consuming projects she completed. Some of the replicas, like the eight-story Elgin Tower Building, stood taller than Amici-Kozi herself. All were made using cardboard boxes.

"Each piece is five different sides that have to be designed and created and built," she explains. "You're not just printing them out, now you have to build them. That was weeks and weeks of work."

She completed one of those building structures in about 10 hours, but others took longer to build. The original plan was to create a display wall with large panels depicting a timeline of historical events in the life of the library. That plan grew larger with the idea of creating lifelike models of previous Gail Borden Library buildings. The plan grew even more with the addition of models of iconic Elgin buildings added to the mix.

In the end, Amici-Kozi was still frantically building the last structure in her workspace on the second level of the library, even as the 140th anniversary party in late March was starting on the main floor of the library.

"We are always changing, always coming up with new ideas," she says. "You want to give as much as you can. You want to be as creative as you can. I like to see how much the public enjoys things that touch them."

The 140th anniversary project is still on display, and has been joined by displays highlighting the summer reading program.

She also enjoys meeting people who have a connection to her work.

"We do a lot about local things," she explains. "As soon as I start putting something up out there, setting something up, immediately there are people who stop to tell me a story. I love it."

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