By Katie Vaughn
When the Madison Public Library's new central branch opens this Saturday, visitors will find plenty of books and cozy spots to dig into a story. What they might not expect is the incredible array of art—and opportunities to get creative—offered in the sleek downtown space.
That's in large part due to Trent Miller, a local artist and the library's gallery director. His idea to host Bookless, a one-day art and music event held in January 2011 while the old library was shut down, attracted more than five thousand attendees and raised nearly $30,000. It also prompted the library to commit to more creative events and collaborations in the new building.
Much of these new endeavors take place through the Bubbler program. Named for the Wisconsin word for a drinking fountain—a natural gathering space—and helmed by Miller, the program features an all-ages media lab and will welcome local experts to give hands-on workshops, lectures, performances and more.
"It's anything from beer-making to 3D printing," he says.
Night Light is a new monthly after-hours series that Miller hopes will attract young professionals and creative types to the library at night. The events will rotate among music, theater, dance, storytelling and performance art, interjecting the library into the city's nighttime entertainment scene. "We didn’t want the building to be just a new shell," Miller adds.
And then there's the visual art. New installations by Heath Matysek-Snyder are certainly eye-catching. The works combine logs, books and furniture from the old library in wall niches on the first floor.
Also on the first floor, an exhibition space offers rotating shows. The debut exhibit is Lewis Koch: 12 Dislocations, running September 7 to October 30, with twelve prints by the Madison photographer depict the deconstruction of the library in 2011. Nearby, a video art screen showcases rotating artists as well. From September 19 to October 30, it's Toby Kaufman-Buhler and Jeremy Wineberg.
On both the first and second floors, imagery by UW–Madison Art Department grad Sofia Arnold extends across the entire far-back walls. And the expansive—roughly 10,000-square feet—and light-filled children's area boasts inspired artwork, too. UW painting professor Derrick Buisch created fluid paintings that he turned into giant graphics for the walls.
Up on the airy, glass-walled third floor, the Diane Endres Ballweg Gallery will host exhibits that change roughly every month and a half. Up first is Q&A: A Show of Questions and Answers, running September 7 to October 30. Curated by Miller and David Wells, the gallery director at Edgewood College, the show highlights work by sixty-five artists with Madison connections.
In addition, permanent art throughout the library includes pieces from the old building as well as some new works. Among the pieces returning are Hieroglyph, a large-scale metal sculpture by O.V. Shaffer, and a wall mural of animals by Aaron Bohrod. New pieces include Niki Johnson's colorful installation made of old bookends and Question Mark, a giant installation by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt visible in the ground floor's front windows.
Anyone interested in the library's dedication to art and creativity won’t want to miss Stacked this Thursday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. A follow-up to Bookless, it's a celebration with DJs, bands, performance art and more than a hundred artists.
And all this is just what's going on as the library opens! Stay tuned for what's to come in this new chapter of the Madison Public library.
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Photo of Question Mark, a giant installation by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, courtesy of Madison Public Library.