Someone asked in an online group for artists that I’m in, about whether it was worth it for her to apply for a library show.  Here’s my answer.

I have shown in libraries a lot. My own solo shows plus group shows – of the time cards and miniature galleries.

Benefits of Showing Your Art in Libraries

• The main one is – you need to love libraries and love putting your art in front of people who weren’t expecting art, but you get to surprise and delight them. It’s possible that more people see art in libraries than in some gallery shows where the biggest turn out is the opening, and then, almost nothing.

• Ideally, each library show will come with a paid workshop for you to teach to go with it. That often happens, but not always.

• You sometimes get a huge amount of wall space to give you an external deadline and make you make a lot of work you might not otherwise make.

• It can help to have a show in your community, where lots of non-artsy people will see it, to help them see you as an artist.

Why bother though?

I could say the same about my solo and group shows in non-library venues. Sometimes I wonder about the value of any show. I decided a few years ago that I was done with libraries, time for me to move on. But shoot, I really love libraries. And I really do love putting my art in front of people who weren’t expecting it. People who don’t go to galleries or museums, but they’ll slow down and take a look.

Those are the benefits to me.

As I wrote the list below, of the library shows I’ve done, I remembered that my Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework have only shown in libraries, with one exception, one of them was in one group show.

In general, libraries love that body of work, and weirdly, once had it displayed for Mothers Day month. And people love that body of work. I love, love, love having that work out in the world, and seen, and appreciated. And for the most part, galleries are not interested. Because it’s about housework? Because it’s made of toys? I don’t know.

My Medals that You Wouldn’t Want to Earn are physically small – they’re sort of oversized jewelry scale. Libraries are the only place I’d get a solo show of that work.

I think libraries can provide a lot of opportunity.  And also, if you’re not excited about it, don’t do it.  It’s a lot of work and things need to be a Hell Yes!  If it’s not a Hell Yes!  then it’s a no.

My Library Shows

Harold Washington Library, Chicago’s downtown flagship location, 8th floor cases, Medals that You Wouldn’t Want to Earn, about 2016, I think.

Chicago Public Library, East Englewood Branch, Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework

Harold Washington Library, Balance &Tension, Popular Library, Main Floor, January – March 2018

Forest Park Public Library, Balance & Tension. July-September 2017

Oak Park Maze Branch Library, Mixed Media Paintings, July 2018

Orland Park Public Library:

Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework (small glass case)  May 2017

Balance & Tension (large glass cases) September-October 2017

Ghost Prints and Shadow Work (wall gallery, artist of the month) July, 2023

Medals that You Wouldn’t Want to Earn (small case)  December, 2021
(Pictured above)

Group show of miniature art, with Angelica Kauffman Gallery, November-December 2021

Time Cards show, Clocking in for Unpaid Labor, January, 2023