The Concord Public Library Foundation is doing its best to make reading a more colorful adventure in the city.
The foundation has teamed with artist Melissa Miller – a Concord resident herself – and the Capital Offset printing company to produce bookmarks that will feature snippets of Miller’s paintings themed to the changing seasons. The first of the bookmarks will be available to the public by the first of the year.
“We work with an eye toward developing partnerships in the community, but to also develop relationships with organizations,” Patti Baum, chairwoman of the library foundation’s grants and partnerships committee, said. “And one of the things that’s important to us is to get people in the door at the library, to use the library. There are so many means for people electronically to gain access to things, but the library is more than just books on a shelf and newspapers and magazines. There’s a lot of other resources that are vital to the community, and the goal with the project is really to get people in the door.”
Much of Miller’s work features streetscapes and landscapes from around Concord, giving her an array of paintings to choose from for each of the seasonal bookmarks. The trick was sitting down and finding the proper sliver of each piece to highlight on the rectangular medium, which features the image on the front and library’s hours on the back. Since the hours change seasonally, it was a no-brainer to have the picture change the same way.
“I was happy to do it,” Miller, who is represented by McGowan Fine Art in Concord, said. “I’ve been going to that library since I was a kid. It was fun – I got on my computer with the images I already had and started playing around with trying to find compositions that would work on that format. I quite enjoyed doing that, because it was all about the composition and I had to look at my paintings like that, in a whole different way.”
When it came time to select a printer for the project, Miller thought of Capital Offset, which jumped on board and essentially donated the cost of printing to the project. The finished product, then, became a hyperlocal collaboration – the library, the artist, the images and the printer were all from Concord.
“A lot of Melissa’s work is of Concord buildings and houses. Her work reflects Concord, and a lot of people in Concord collect her work,” Baum said. “We thought it was a nice way to build on that partnership.”
Said Stewart: “It’s great to have a community project. I’ve known Melissa for years, and when the library came and asked about it, we said, ‘Sure, absolutely, we’d love to help out.’ ”
It was also an interesting opportunity for Miller to look at her paintings through a different lens as she tried to select the small portions to fit on bookmarks. It also allowed her the opportunity to revisit the inspiration, some of which she wouldn’t be able to find again even with a map.
“I walk around when the light moves me and take pictures or do sketches,” Miller said of her technique for capturing the scenes she paints. “I can’t even always tell you where I was. It’s somewhat intriguing, and kind of cool. It’s hard to explain, because like with anything you do creatively, when you are doing it you are not completely conscious of what you are doing intellectually. So to go back and look at a piece after it’s done and you’re satisfied with it, and to be able to look at it objectively and think it’s kind of cool, that’s fun.”
The hope is that the public finds it just as cool, and that bringing a fresh take to an old medium inspires people to continue heading down to the library.
“I think it’s very important. I’m a little nervous about everyone doing everything at home on their computer or cell phone instead of going out somewhere,” Miller said. “In the old days, you’d go find a book in the library and sit in a corner and read, and we’re sort of losing that. Anything I can do to keep that going.”
“It’s great, and I hope people find it interesting and it brings a little more attention to the arts in Concord and to the library,” Stewart said. “It’s a glimpse of creative Concord.”