A Courtyard that invokes the joy of reading through art…
Once upon a time there was a library that dared to dream it could provide more than books. It dreamt that it could invoke the joy of reading through great works of art in a courtyard of peace and quiet. That library is the Waukegan Public Library and here is the story…
The Art of a Story
What is your earliest memory of reading? Is it sitting on someone’s lap listening to your favorite story, or learning to read yourself? Or perhaps it involves trips to the library and believing that someday you would read every book there? It is our earliest memories of reading that evoke the strongest emotions.
Creating those memories for the next generation is our challenge. It’s knowing which stories, books and poems will capture the imagination and feed the soul. A good book is as true an art form as a beautiful painting, or a haunting photograph, or an inspirational song.
How do you capture those memories and stories? The Waukegan Public Library, a cornerstone in the revitalization of the city of Waukegan, is attempting to capture them through sculpture.
The library’s first sculpture, Man Writes, is located at the south end of the courtyard and was installed in February 1966, soon after the building opened. It is the work of Evanston sculptor Martin Hurtig and portays “man’s efforts to communicate throughout the ages”. Go here for a description of the symbols on each triangle.
In 2000 the library’s Foundation introduced the Art of a Story project. This project installed 14 bronze sculptures on the grounds of the library. All the statues embody the library’s mission — to promote reading — by featuring characters reading.
The Waukegan Public Library Foundation was responsible for raising of private funds to pay for the project — no tax dollars were used to purchase the artwork!
Seven bronze statues ranging from 7 to 46 inches in height were installed in the first phase of the project. The pieces include: Little Sisters, Once Upon a Time, First Reader, Time Out, Bookin’ It, Little Scholar and Storytime II. Six of the seven pieces feature children reading. The last is a whimsical piece showing a “bookish” snail-One that the children of the community are guaranteed to love! Chapter 1 is complete.
Upon completion of Chapter One, the foundation embarked upon the second phase of the sculpture garden project, adding 4 more more pieces to the library grounds. The new pieces added in the Spring of 2003: Egghead, Mother Goose, Literary Scot and Imagine That.
During the summer of 2012, the library lost Little Scholar by Jane Rankin, and Imagine That by Kathy Anderson, and immediately the foundation began looking for replacement pieces for the garden. In November, three spectacular new sculptures were added to the courtyard. Best Friends, Maxey and Me, and The Frog Prince now beautifully complete our Stimson Sculpture Garden.