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Teens’ sculptures attract new patrons to local libraries

  • Iker Casillas by Avery Keeler, from the Soccer Encyclopedia is now on display at the Greenfield Public Library. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield Public Library Children's Librarian Kay Lyons with some of the models of literary figures on display at the library. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of the models of literary figures on display at the Greenfield Public Library. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of the models of literary figures on display at the Greenfield Public Library. Some of the models of literary figures on display at the Greenfield Public Library.

  • Some of the models of literary figures on display at the Greenfield Public Library. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Friday, February 24, 2017

Patrons of local libraries can find swans, dragons, unicorns and other popular book characters adorning library shelves.

More than 35 models of book characters have been distributed to libraries as part of the “Readers as Artists” program offered by Meadowedge Art, a nonprofit art workshop. The program, which is open to teenagers and tweens ages 11 to 14, allows participants to create a 12- to 14-inch model of a character from one of their favorite books, much to the delight of library staff.

“It’s a gift to the community,” Kay Lyons, head of youth services at the Greenfield Public Library, said of the program. “It’s literature-based, which all the libraries love … It’s inspiring. The arts are so important.”

Cynthia Fulton, founder and director of Meadowedge Art in Bernardston, has been supervising students in sculpting the pieces since last fall, and has distributed models to several libraries across Franklin County. She said the program has proved even more fun that she had originally imagined.

“There have been so many creative challenges I didn’t anticipate,” Fulton said, such as figuring out how to make the fur on a wolf or how to balance a model to support itself.

Fulton originally came up with the idea in early 2016 when considering a grant application with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Fulton knew she wanted to propose a project with teenagers, and remembered that, when she taught art at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, she had her students craft book characters whom they emulated. Fulton decided to pitch a similar project, learning in early September she had received a $2,500 matching grant through the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio Program to help cover her services, art materials and the cost of creating brochures.

For Fulton, the project has inspired a lot of reading, so she can better help her students craft their characters. Now that the models are in libraries, she hopes they will do the same for library patrons.

“I hope it makes people think ‘Maybe I want to read that book,’” Lyons said, thinking about a model of David Balfour from the book “Kidnapped,” which is one of the dozen models on display at the Greenfield Public Library.

Lyons said she loves to watch children exclaim when they know one of the characters or sculptors, and feels the experience is just as rewarding for the artists.

“Cynthia Fulton just did the most wonderful thing,” Lyons said. “The cultural enrichment they get through this project is not something they’re going to get in their regular life … I think it’s wonderful when kids discover what they can do.”

Angela Rovatti-Leonard, youth services librarian at Carnegie Library in Turners Falls, where five models are on display, said the program has even helped to bring more patrons into the library.

“The kids who created them are coming in and wanting to show relatives what they did, which is nice because some of those relatives have never set foot in the library beore,” Rovatti-Leonard said, noting that such instances provide the chance for newcomers to learn about the library’s programs.

Plus, the models have proved to be icebreakers to conversations with new patrons.

“It was a neat way to connect with somebody that I haven’t seen come into the library before,” Rovatti-Leonard said of one instance.

Still, the program is not over, with Fulton hoping to finish with 80 models. Sculpting sessions will continue at Northfield’s Dickinson Memorial Library, Mohawk Trail Regional High School and Greenfield Center School through April.

To get involved, contact Fulton by phone at 413-219-7807 or by email at cfulton@meadowedgeart.org.

You can reach Shelby
Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261 ext. 257.