A group of art and library supporters gathered at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Shawnee Public Library as their newest colored glass tile mosaic was unveiled.

Note: An in-depth look at how the Shawnee Public Library, with community partners and local youth, is not only encouraging public art projects for Shawnee, but is creating and housing them through their own program.

A group of art and library supporters gathered at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Shawnee Public Library as their newest colored glass tile mosaic was unveiled.

Local artist and Oklahoma Baptist University Assistant Professor of Art Julie Blackstone worked with about 20 teens over the summer through the library’s reading program to create a work of art that would be on permanent display at the site.

“The theme was superheroes, so we focused on a design that integrated bright, superhero colors in blocks made popular by color theory artist Josef Albers,” Blackstone said.

Mary Sims, teen services librarian, said the youth look forward to the project every year. This is the fifth year for the teen public art project.

“Kids from Pottawatomie County, as well as Lincoln and Seminole have participated. In addition to the large group piece the artists work on together, they also make individual pieces to take home,” she said.

Blackstone said the youth had fun with the project. “It worked out real well and they did a good job,” she said.

Paris Rimer, 11, of Shawnee, said this was her first year in the library’s teen program and her first time creating a mosaic. “It was fun,” she said. “I’m definitely going to do it again next year.”

She said, “I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I tried to put the tiles on really straight. I like to make everything not messy. When I looked at it, I thought, ‘Wow, that looks nice.’ ”

Connie Johnson, of Shawnee, said two of her four children have worked on the library’s summer art projects for the last three years.

She said her homeschoolers Kendra, 18, and Andrew, 16, have thoroughly enjoyed the art projects. “We appreciate Ms. Blackstone and Ms. Sims,” she said.

Christian Potts, from the Pioneer Library System, said Shawnee’s library has a good turnout for their teen program.

“Teens are one of hardest groups to attract to the library system. We have 11 branches, and many don’t get the numbers that Shawnee does. Bigger populations sometimes struggle to get those kinds of numbers.”

Shawnee has had up to 25-30 teens participate in past years, he said.

Sen. Ron Sharp and state Rep. Justin Wood were in attendance to unveil the art piece.

“The unveiling of this year’s mosaic proves that the future of our state will be bright if we continue to nurture the creativity of our youth. I am thankful for Mary Sims and Julie Blackstone who have once again brought a beautiful idea to life through the hands and minds of our community’s teens,” Wood said.

Karen Bays-Winslow, branch manager of Shawnee Public Library, said it’s a wonderful process that brings teens and community partners together.

“We need more public art in the community,” she said. “The Jr. Service League believes in the value of public art and has created opportunities for teens to have an experience that the teens and someday their children can visit for years to come.”

Junior Service League President Marcy Holter said, “We fund projects at the library like the summer mosaic project. Members volunteer to help with assembly of the mural.”

Wood said, “I’m happy so many people love the library system as much as I do, and that they take advantage of it and support it the way you should in a community.”

Sharp said, “This project introduces our youth to the appreciation of art and to the cooperative effort of a finished project. Thank you to Mary Sims and to the Shawnee Pioneer Library for making this a yearly project.”

For more information about the Shawnee Public Library, visit pioneerlibrarysystem.org or call (405) 275-6353.


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