Thursday, 22 December 2016

Our Favorite Things: Art & Activism

It’s time for a few Favorite Things posts, an annual series where we pull together a set of posts from the past year under a specific topic. To our minds, libraries are (and should be) activist spaces and we see the arts and creativity programming as one way to engage communities in meaningful, thought-provoking, and yes, even uncomfortable dialogues and conversations. While there are many many projects and programs that we’ve featured that could fall under the umbrella of Art & Activism, I’m just going to highlight a few today.

  • Community Art Project at Amityville Public Library: Staff at Amityville Public Library worked with community members to offer an inclusive art gallery, inviting pieces from all ages and levels of expertise. One challenge? To find enough space to display the artwork in a building with no formal gallery!

  • Brisbane Pride Choir Finds a Home in Libraries: Where do you go when your performing arts group needs a welcoming, safe, and inexpensive place to rehearse or perform? Why, the library, of course! 
  • Audio Storytelling at DCPL: Let’s embrace the idea of storytelling as activist and an intrinsic aspect of social justice, particularly for traditionally underrepresented groups. The DCPL’s new emphasis on audio storytelling in the forms of interviews and first-person narratives offers a platform for people to capture their own lived experiences for posterity.
  • Why Libraries Matter: My Experience Planning a Black Lives Matter Program: Tough and important conversations belong in libraries, so what can/should it look like when an academic library takes this role seriously and head-on? Our contributor provides an overview of a two-night library program that explored serious questions and experiences for students, and describes pushback and ideas for handling similar situations in the future. 
  • The Labs at CLP: Our ongoing series of posts about the Carnegie of Library-Pittsburgh’s youth-centered maker program, The Labs, continues to highlight the activist work of getting out into the community and connecting with local youth through maker experiences and creative opportunities.
  • Welcome to Bronzeville at Milwaukee Public Library: This library/performing artist partnership welcomed teenagers into the library as a safe space for exploring their relationship to their neighborhood and to each other through performance art and poetry.
  • Library Takeover: Now on at Madison Public Library in Madison, Wisconsin, the original idea of Library Takeover (developed by UK organizations Apples & Snakes and Half-Moon Theatre) is to embrace the library as a true community space by ceding control of library resources like funding, space, and staff time to groups of youth and adults from the community who want to plan and host their own public programming.

As the LAIP team outlined earlier this fall, we intend to get a lot more explicit about our commitment to social justice and inclusive library programming in 2017. If you have initiatives and programs you want to share around those ideas, we want to hear from you. Email us at

from Library as Incubator Project

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