Looking Ahead: Library Arts Center Welcomes the Promise of Spring | News

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NEWPORT — The Library Arts Center is entering a new spring with its arts and community programs thriving, despite the many creative tweaks and reinventions made over the past two years.

The Library Arts Center, a nonprofit community arts center, gallery, and studio in Newport, received a Public Value Partnership Grant, a prestigious multi-year grant from the New Hampshire State Council of the Arts, to fund community programs through fiscal year 2023.

The monetary amount of the grant was not disclosed, although the grant provides funding over two years, Library Arts Center officials said, who noted that simply being chosen for this particular grant is a remarkable honor.

“You must be invited to apply,” said assistant manager Fran Huot. “So we were really thrilled to have been chosen for this.”

The grant is for arts programs that focus on building community and building community partnerships toward larger project goals, said executive director Kate Luppold. Programs that are considered should generally be well established.

“It’s very important for us to receive this,” Luppold said. “We are honored to receive the grant and to be part of the state community that [participates] inside.

The Library Arts Center, attached to the Richards Free Public Library in Newport, is a separate entity that operates in partnership with the library.

The physical link between the two programs is perhaps symbolically appropriate, as public libraries and arts centers are often seen as two of the most essential cultural community hubs.

To illustrate the importance of the Library Arts Center as a community builder, consider the center’s two current exhibits.

One is the annual Peeps Diorama Contest, a hugely popular pop-up exhibit, featuring boards of gooey creative imaginations of kids, families and adults using one of Easter’s most familiar marshmallow confections.

Now in its 11th year, the center’s Peeps Diorama Contest was the first of its kind in New Hampshire and averages 100 entries a year.

The second is “The Heart of Newport”, a student exhibit featuring the artwork of Newport Public School students in grades K-12, curated by art teachers Colleen O’Connor, Richards Elementary , and Debbee Skinner, of Newport Middle High School. .

“I really think it’s the heart of the community,” said board member Laura Finke McCoy.

McCoy, who moved to Newport from Connecticut 12 years ago, said the Library Arts Center was a big influence on her choice of Newport as her home.

“And now I’m part of it,” McCoy said. “I’m a board member and a professional artist, and I frequent the studios. My youngest daughter was very active in the art group [as a student] and posted here, and my other daughter worked here for two years in the office. It’s a very family-friendly place. »

The Library Arts Center was also a jumping-off point for Rhode Island fashion designer Kent Stetson, who once held summer workshops for children at the center. Stetson rose to fame after a 2003 art exhibition, when frustration at not selling a single piece prompted him to cut his paintings into pieces of canvas and sew them into his now-famous handbags.

Several board members praised Luppold and Huot’s collaboration for the success of the Library Arts Center, especially during the height of the pandemic, when the Library Arts Center had to find new ways to deliver community programs, such as virtual classes or outdoor activities.

While happy to be able to hold in-person activities again, Luppold said she feels their offerings are even stronger now, as the pandemic has finally expanded the ways in which the center can serve the community.

“It’s rewarding to go back to our old favorites, but also to have this toolkit and a new way of doing things to merge,” Luppold said. “So our programming will always be off, but for the better.”

In addition to adding distance and hybrid art courses, the Library Arts Center has created “CSAs” or “Community Supported Art,” a spin-off from Community Supported Agriculture programs.

The Community Supported Art (CSA) program is a member-funded initiative, in which membership fees are used to commission original artwork produced on small 16-inch square canvases. Each month, the CSA member receives a new original coin in the mail.

“It’s been a new way to connect artists and the community,” Luppold said. “And it’s a new way to get people to appreciate handmade and put art in their hands.”

To learn more about the Library Arts Center, including exhibit and program hours, visit their website at libraryartscenter.org.

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