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Libraries + Art = Infinite Possibilities

Alameda County Library
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Innovation Leader: Gary Morrison, Teen Services Coordinator, gmorrison@aclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Each March, during national Arts Education Month, the Alameda County Arts Commission, working with our county Office of Education, presents Art IS Education, a showcase of youth arts learning in schools. In order to increase the public’s exposure to the role of art as an integral component of education and a thriving community, they decided to explore the possibility of working with another county agency. The library helped solve their problem by agreeing to partner with them, and provided direct outreach to a diverse, intergenerational audience at multiple branch locations.

Innovation

To help the Alameda County Arts Commission expand the reach of the Art IS Education program, the Library introduced library patrons to Art IS Education through programming and promotion. In addition to giving ongoing programs like storytime an “arts” focus and theme, we also scheduled special visual and performance art events. Highlights included a teen henna program that toured multiple branches, a community painting workshop that resulted in a permanent mural at a branch, and community arts days that brought local communities together to experience a range of arts including Aztec dancing, a puppet show, youth art exhibits, and hands on workshops with local artists and authors. We featured these events, Art IS Education logo and web link on our web site as well as on a magnetic Bookmobile sign. We also jointly created an Art IS Education booklist to support librarians to create arts book displays, while providing patrons with a tool to help explore the library’s collection.

Progress

We co-produced a booklet featuring over 25 arts-oriented programs at all ten library branches. Over 1600 attended these programs, and over 21,000 viewed our various art exhibits! In addition to creating fliers promoting library-based programs, we co-wrote press releases which resulted in five news pieces published online about the library events. In addition, the new partnership between was included on 1,600 Art IS Education posters, featured on the Art IS Education web site during Art IS Education month, and included in the Art IS Education proclamation by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. A strength of this program was that it provided a platform for all the branches to participate in a single effort while creating programming specific to the interests of their local patrons. Also the Juvenile Justice Center Library, where youth won an Art IS Education Freedom Bus contest with artwork about civil rights activist Claudette Colvin, whom they met through the Write to Read Program. Their artwork is featured on 200 buses in the county fleet bringing great pride to JJC Library and JJC community. In addition, the program generated branch interest in presenting future art programs, and also yielded leads to artist contacts for future library programs. Overall, this mutually beneficial partnership has resulted in a deepened inter-agency working relationship.