Bookshelves in an art gallery might detract from the experience, but on the other hand, art can enhance a visit to the library.
With that thought in mind, the Johnson County Library has gallery space in 10 of its branches. Art showcases creativity and tells stories just like the books, music, and movies in the Library’s collection, said Local Arts Librarian Bryan Voell.
“Art is a way to inspire people,” he said. “It provides the start of a conversation in the library. It becomes a way to reflect on our community.”
The Library changes the exhibits during spring, summer, and fall trimesters, and managing the rotation of artists is a heavy lift for the staff who serve on the local arts team in addition to working their main Library jobs. Voell, for instance, is an adult services librarian. So the Library has hired InterUrban ArtHouse to curate the exhibits in all the gallery spaces, except for the one at the Central Resource Library, which the Library will continue to manage. InterUrban ArtHouse, a nonprofit located in downtown Overland Park, is expected to take over in January.
As an organization that rents out studio space and offers arts programming, Voell said InterUrban ArtHouse is a perfect partner for the Library. “We see them as the experts,” he said. “This is what they do best.”
With its exhibits, the Library has brought in artists ranging from neophytes to mid-career. From that perspective, Voell said Library users should not notice the switch to InterUrban ArtHouse.
Patrons might, however, notice an uptick in arts programming at the Library now that Voell and his team are freed up from most of the curation duties. Voell said his arts position is an unusual one for a library, and he considers himself fortunate to be working for an organization that places such a high value on art.
The exhibits highlight the work of artists from throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area and around the region, and a central coordinator helps make that experience a positive one for the artists and the staff.
“And in the end,” Voell said, “it’s the patrons who end up enjoying the art, getting inspired by the art, and there’s an educational component as well.”
He was reminded how much the exhibitions can mean to patrons when he recently encountered a woman with a mobility scooter looking at the art at the Central Resource Library. Her limited mobility made it difficult for her to get to art galleries and museums, she told Voell, so the Central gallery was an important resource. “This is where she comes to enjoy the art and learn about the artists,” Voell said.
The fact that the Library serves a “huge cross-section of people, including people who otherwise would never have an opportunity to see contemporary, local art,” is one reason InterUrban ArtHouse is happy to take on curation duties, said CEO Angi Hejduk said in an email.
“We are excited to facilitate the relationship between artists and public art space,” she said, “creating opportunities for artists representing diverse communities and backgrounds to have their work on display.”
InterUrban ArtHouse will help artists pick items to display from their body of work and make digital catalogs of each exhibit, Hejduk said. The organization also assists with installation and marketing. “Each artist is elevated through their experience,” she said.
Be sure to check out the fall exhibits, currently on display at eight locations, and celebrate the creative works of individuals right here in our community. To learn more about these artists and what inspires them, visit the exhibitions page on jocolibrary.org. Then in mid-December check the website or pick up the Spring 2024 Guide at your favorite branch to see what new exhibits are coming in 2024.
Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom