Walls talk at Peter White Public Library

By: Pam Christensen


Public art generally is considered to be art created in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged or located within the public domain. When most people hear the term public art, they think of monuments, installations, sculptures or fountains located outdoors for the enjoyment of all. Some people also consider any art that is exhibited in a public space to be public art. This type of art generally is exhibited in the same place for long periods of time, unlike special exhibits or displays.
Peter White Public Library (PWPL) offers a number of special exhibits and displays during the year, but this does not mean its permanent collection of art is less worthy of viewing and appreciation. In fact, the PWPL collection is an eclectic mix of media, styles and artists.
0811ah1“It would probably surprise people to know the extent of our art collections,” said library board president Toni Eppensteiner. “Most people don’t come to the library to look at art, except for the special exhibits and displays, but they should. We have artworks from all over the world, as well as works of internationally known artists.”
“On our walls” can be taken literally to describe art painted right onto the walls of PWPL. The newest artwork on the walls is featured in the teen area of the library on the main floor. It is a teen-designed mural that brightens and warms the area. Artist Alanna Luttenton worked with a group of teen advisory board members to choose colors and design the mural. It captures the energy and enthusiasm of local teens and signifies that teens have a special place at PWPL.
Luttenton probably is the artist with the most art, measured in square feet, represented at PWPL and all of it is painted right on the walls. In addition to the teen area, Luttenton used her magic to transform the Dandelion Cottage room into a cozy and delightful space that evokes scenes from the perennial children’s classic written by Carroll Watson Rankin in 1903. Luttenton’s work also is featured on the lower level of PWPL in Tu Kaluthia Café and the youth services department. She painted the northern lights mural over the children’s computers and the beach-themed murals at the entrance to the department.
This area is dedicated to the memory of Mary Ann Paulin, “librarian extraordinaire.” Paulin served as librarian for the Negaunee Public Schools for many years. She was a renowned expert on children’s literature and the author of research books written for teachers, librarians and others who work with children. Paulin passed away in 2003, but her memory lives on at PWPL.
When most people think of public art, they don’t think about textiles. The library’s collection includes three quilts on permanent display. Circulation is a quilt by local quilt artist Kathy Peters. Peters designed this quilt to commemorate the library’s renovation and expansion in 2000. The quilt is quintessentially PWPL, because Peters used photo transfer to add library-related memorabilia, such as book plates, book pockets and date due slips, into the quilt’s design.
0811ah2Wild Geese is a quilt that was donated to the library because it reminded the owner of the Canadian geese that inhabit Marquette. It is a geometric quilt done in earth tones that complement the library’s color scheme, as well as capture the colors and feel of a fall day.
The Abraham Lincoln quilt designed and stitched by Marion Slee is a favored destination for many library visitors. This elaborate quilt, done in red, white, blue and black, features the Gettysburg Address, hand stitched by Slee, and a silhouette of Lincoln.
Marquette seems an unusual place to find an extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints, but the library has a collection of more than thirty by well known and lesser known print makers as the result of a bequest from Ruth Black.
A favorite are the woodblock prints by Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960). As you can probably guess, Jacoulet was a French artist who ended up in Japan as a result of his father’s diplomatic service. He is known for his detailed portraits of native people, often in native dress, from Asia and the South Seas. The thirteen prints at PWPL feature more delicate lines and more numerous colors than most woodblocks. He self-published most of the 160 prints he produced during his lifetime—discarding impressions that were not perfect. Jacoulet is known for his expertly crafted prints using vivid colors. Jacoulet’s work is featured in the audio-visual (AV) area.
The AV area is home to several other art pieces. The largest is an oil by William Posey Silva. This oversized work features a muted scene of a lush southern garden, complete with Spanish moss.
A beautiful George Nakashima-type free form wooden coffee table created by former NMU art student James Campbell was given by the Gorski family to the library as a gift to commemorate the grand opening of the renovated and expanded building in 2000. Made of natural walnut, the table is utilitarian, as well as beautiful.
The library owns three Leon Lundmark (1875-1942) works. Lundmark, who spent summers in Marquette painting landscapes and giving art lessons was the illegitimate son of Countess Hanna von Til and S.A. Johnson. He was born in Morlund (Sweden) and educated in Stockholm at a technical school and the Stockholm Fine Art Academy. He left Sweden in 1906 and settled in Pullman (Illinois) where he worked in the decoration department for the Pullman shops.
0811ah3Lundmark is best known for his seascapes and coastal scenes. He often painted Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, as well as the Maine, Swedish and Pacific coasts. Two Lundmarks are on display in the magazine reading room at PWPL and another i
s located in the MFC business room on the second floor.
The work of local artists is some of the most meaningful to Marquette residents, and PWPL has plenty of this. A watercolor print of the White House by Nita Engle is on display at the circulation desk. This print was given to the library by Engle in appreciation of the assistance staff members have given her over the years.
The George Shiras III (1859-1942) nighttime deer photos are some of the most popular items in the collection. The Shiras works are located on the second floor of PWPL, in the George Shiras III Room. Shiras was married to Peter White’s daughter, Francis Petria White, and is best known for his work in Congress on the Federal Migratory Bird Act, his work in natural history and his ground-breaking experimentation with flash photography. There are seven Shiras nighttime photographs in the Shiras Room, along with other photos of hunting camps and Shiras’ father, Supreme Court Justice George Shiras, Jr.
Internationally known Columbian artist Orlando Agudelo-Botero has a work hanging in the Marquette Genealogical Society balcony on the second floor. Orlando grew up in Columbia and came to the United States at the age of twenty-one. He has become known for his oversized works that use vivid colors, religious symbolism and multimedia. One of his pieces has been selected for permanent display at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. The work on display at PWPL was given to the library by the Glenn Engman family in memory of Jean Engman.
Also located on the second floor is a display of historic items relating to Marquette and PWPL. The three showcases feature items from Peter White and George Shiras III. The library owns two pieces of fungus art created by Frances Jacker. Items found on the construction site during the library’s renovation and expansion project and a piece taken from the downtown ore dock trestle also can be found in these cases.
The second floor also features works by local artists that have been given to the library. There are watercolors by Maggie Hascall, Teagul and Bonnie Lou Prouty. Oils by Claire Bennett and L. Chaney also are on display.
The second floor contains a variety of historic maps and photos. Near the elevator are two black-and-white photographs taken by John Munro Longyear in 1891. One of the photos is of the Grand Portal at Pictured Rocks and the other is of Munising Falls. Both locations look much different today. An interesting photo of Longyear can be viewed on the main floor in the Peter White conference room.
Historic photos of the Marquette ore dock, landscape and notable citizens also can be found throughout the second floor. A distinguished photograph of Peter White can be found in the MFC business reference room. An etching of White as a young man is featured on the main floor in the Peter White conference room.
The conference room also holds the original architect’s rendering of the historic 1904 building done in watercolor. This piece was found in the library’s attic and has been restored and framed. The library also has four portraits of Charlie Kawbawgam on display in this same room. One is a studio photograph, one is an etching and two photos were taken in 1893 by Everett Ball.
The Ball photographs have an interesting story.
“My uncle received a new camera, and, eager to test it out, he rode his bike out to the Island to see if Chief Kawbawgam would allow a portrait,” Ball’s nephew Frank Stone said. “He found Charlie in work clothes and the two chatted.”
Kawbawgam did not want an informal photo taken—he wanted time to change and clean up. Ball got Kawbawgam to agree to a photo in his work clothes with the promise that Ball would return at a later date to capture a more dignified image. Ball did return later (you can see his bike in both photos) and took the picture of Kawbawgam with a young child.
“I found the glass negatives in family effects and asked Jack Deo of Superior View to make copies of them for me,” Stone said.
These copies were given to PWPL, so Marquette residents could glimpse a bit of history. The original photographs were given to the Marquette County History Museum by the Stone family years ago.
The east staircase on the main level of the library is home to another prize found in the PWPL attic. It is the original artists’ rendering of the Father Marquette statue commissioned by Peter White. The watercolor is dedicated to “Mrs. Peter White with best regards from G. Trentanovi February 5, 1899.” Gaetano Trentanovi also was the sculptor of the marble bust of Peter White located on the Peter White desk across from the circulation desk, as well as the Father Marquette statue that overlooks the City of Marquette.
The lower level ramp between the 2000 building and 1904 building displays four artworks by artists with local ties. A modernistic watercolor filled with vivid yellows, greens and oranges, was done by Vida Lautner. Lautner (1886-1978) was an acclaimed artist specializing in abstract and modern art.
Two works were created by Maude Kronquist, a charter member of the Lake Superior Art Association and well known local artist. Kronquist (1897-1973) studied in St. Miguel (Mexico) and worked for the Detroit Recreation Department staging marionette plays throughout the city. She also was a stage and costume designer. She was a creative artist who experimented with many medias, including paint, clay, native stone and stitchery.
Peter White Public Library does not purchase artwork for its permanent collection. The items it owns have been given to the library over the years by artists or owners of the artworks. The PWPL permanent art collection emphasis is on art with a local connection. These works have the most relevance to the community. Acceptance of art for the permanent collection is made by the library director and approved by the library board.
The library does purchase, as well as accept donations of artwork for the circulation art collection. This collection of items can be checked out for the enjoyment of library card holders. A limit of two items per card is enforced, and the items can be checked out for two months. This collection contains more than 250 items. Most artwork has been produced by artists from Michigan or have ties to Marquette County. Next time you find yourself at a loss for something to do, visit Peter White Public Library and see what is on the walls. You won’t be disappointed.
—Pam Christensen

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