Renovated Library Provides a Fresh Canvas for Public Art

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Three colorful hand shapes hanging on a wall.

​In September 2021, visitors to the renovated Salem Public Library will experience a light-filled interior with books, new spaces for reading and meeting, and redesigned areas for children and youth. They will also delight in a striking reinstallation of public art. More than 70 artworks, including some that were originally purchased for the Civic Center's opening in 1972, have returned to the library in new locations as the two-year seismic upgrade has been completed.  The reinstallation process was guided by members of the Salem Public Art Commission and the Salem Library Foundation.

"There is a rich history of the visual arts in Salem," said Christine D'Arcy, chair of the Salem Public Art Commission.  "Many of the works were gifted to the City and the Foundation by the artist or residents who wanted art to be part of the library's experience.  Others were purchased from the Mayor's Invitational Art Shows that occurred in the 1970s.  Many artists who were important teachers and mentors in Salem's arts community are represented."

Major works, familiar and beloved by many, include a large Carved Teakwood Screen by Leroy Setziol, and a suspended sculpture of birds in flight (Birds by Tom Hardy), which are now in new and more visible locations on the library's main floor. Kristin Kuhns' ceramic trees and forest creatures, Willamette Valley Wildlife Friends, commissioned by the Salem Public Library Foundation in 2015, is prominently displayed and ties to the colors and wayfinding signs that lead visitors to the Children's Corner.

A significant new artwork has been added to the library's collection through the percent for public art funds generated by the library renovation. Since 2010, the City of Salem dedicates one-half of one percent of the funding for a public improvement project to the acquisition of public art. Call Number Cascade, by Eugene-based artist and University of Oregon art professor Amanda Wojick, is a wall sculpture made of hand painted steel.  The lively and colorful abstract work, installed on the library's main floor, draws inspiration from library nonfiction classification systems and a series of waterfalls in the Opal Creek Wilderness near Salem.

In addition, Ashland artist Betty LaDuke gifted a large three panel painting, Trees of Life, to the City, specifically for display in the library's plaza level entry. LaDuke, a former longtime faculty member at Southern Oregon University, has created works throughout her career that focus on socially engaged multicultural themes.

"It's wonderful that all of the artwork in the library's collection will now be seen in a new light. The placement of these pieces has been thoughtfully curated and integrated into the new space," said Sarah Strahl, City Librarian.  "We're really excited to welcome the community back to such a vibrant public space."

In addition to those previously mentioned, library visitors will encounter paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture by well-known local and regional artists including Louis Bunce, Constance Fowler, Carl Hall, Manuel Izquierdo, James Kirk, Nancy Lindburg, SueDel McCulloch, James Mattingly, Jack McLarty, Hilda Morris, Aimee Spencer Gorham, and Susan Trueblood Stuart, Eileen Cotter Howell, among others.

Sculpture and wall art at the Salem Public Library
Carved wood wall at Salem Public Library

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