How Wheeling library's maker-in-residence program lets patrons help create public art
If you've ever marveled at a painting, a sculpture or another artistic creation and wondered how artists do what they do, head to the Indian Trails Public Library any Tuesday or Thursday afternoon through mid-July.
There, in the first-floor space known as the Launch Pad, you'll find sculptor Anastasia Sitnikov working on a piece that eventually will be prominently displayed at the library.
Sitnikov, a Buffalo Grove resident and an Indian Trails cardholder, is the first maker-in-residence at the library, 355 Schoenbeck Road. She was chosen from among seven applicants to create art in public - and with the public's assistance.
That's right - acrylic objects created by library patrons in the Launch Pad will be incorporated into Sitnikov's sculpture.
"I'm excited about this format and look forward to seeing how it can develop," Sitnikov said.
Immigrant to artist
The Russian-born Sitnikov, who previously worked under the name Anastasia Sitnikova, has seen her work displayed throughout the Midwest, including at Harper College in Palatine, the Schaumburg Township District Library and the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago.
Sitnikov, 44, studied management and economics and worked in the business world in Russia. Her artistic creativity blossomed after she moved to the U.S. with her family in 2015.
Here, Sitnikov took art classes at Harper and ultimately earned a master's degree in fine arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Sitnikov initially intended to paint but was inspired by a class at Harper to pursue sculpting. She finds it more challenging, particularly the use of potentially dangerous tools.
"I like the challenge," said Sitnikov, who now teaches art at Harper and other colleges.
Sitnikov's residency at Indian Trails began June 13 and will conclude July 11. Each of her sessions in the Launch Pad runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
Makerspaces like the Launch Pad are part workshop, part art studio. They encourage people to exercise their creativity in whatever form that might take.
Other makerspaces can be found at libraries in Arlington Heights, Aurora, Bloomingdale, Lake Zurich, Naperville and Palatine - just to name a few - as well as in select schools.
The Launch Pad contains a laser cutter, a digital embroidery machine, 3D printers, sewing machines and lots of other tools patrons can use for creative projects.
The maker-in-residence program developed as a way to showcase those resources, Indian Trails Executive Director Brian Shepard said.
But Indian Trails' effort could be unique in the North, Northwest and West suburbs, officials said.
"We ... are always looking for innovative ways to best serve our community," Shepard said.
An intimate process
The piece Sitnikov is making primarily is macramé - a textile produced using knots, as opposed to weaving or knitting. Sitnikov's consists of black nylon cords.
She works on the piece in a front corner of the glass-walled Launch Pad so people in the room and passersby can watch.
Sitnikov delicately hand-ties every knot. She works silently, not drawing the attention of the kids and adults working on their own creative projects in the Launch Pad. When needed, she cuts more lengths of cord from a large spool that's on a nearby chair.
The theme of Sitnikov's sculpture is inspired by her relocation to the U.S.: displacement. Patrons have used the Launch Pad's laser cutter to create objects that represent their pasts.
Sitnikov's proposal for a sculpture that would involve the community "made her a great choice for our first maker-in-residence program." said Liz Poppenhouse, the library's digital and maker services manager.
"I can't wait to see the finished product and share this meaningful piece of art with our community," Poppenhouse said.
Sitnikov will be paid $2,000 for her work at the library and the resulting sculpture.
Pending library board approval, the piece will be displayed on a second-floor wall near the entrance to the Muriel Lischett Reading Room.
"People most often think of a library as helping people to tell their story through the written word," Shepard said. "But as libraries evolve to include more creative spaces like a makerspace, we can help people tell their stories through art as well."