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Popular Artist in the Library Program Reinforces Community Stories

The goal of the Library Talk series is to demonstrate how Ontario libraries are changing to meet the 21st century demands and reflect the communities in which they serve. As Penny Griffin, Area Manager for Toronto Public Library’s Northern District writes, the Artists in the Library residency program is yet another program in which community connections are introduced and reinforced. Art installations also serve to modernize the library and increase arts access in communities outside downtown Toronto.

The public library has a unique role in any community as it provides free and equitable access to a world of ideas, knowledge, and experiences. Today’s libraries go far beyond the traditional role as repositories of books and have evolved into active community hubs and a free and welcoming place where communities meet, share, learn, and create.

One of Toronto Public Library’s strategic priorities is Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences. The methods used to achieve this strategic priority are varied and include book clubs, author readings, lectures, performances, and more. For a full list of programs offered at the Toronto Public Library, please click here for more details.

Another tactic helping the Toronto Public Library achieve this strategic priority is bringing local artists into branches to share their work and knowledge with the surrounding community. An interesting example is the Artist in the Library residency program offered annually since 2014 in partnership with the Toronto Arts Council and funded by the City of Toronto. The program brings professional artists from a variety of disciplines into ten branches outside the downtown core with the goals of increasing arts access in the community and animating library spaces.

Artists apply through the Toronto Arts Council juried process, with a Toronto Public Library representative on the jury to help match artists and communities. Artists spend about 15 hours a week in the branch from September to December working with members of the community to create new works of art. The 2018 artists include Hijinks, Moving Images, Paul Stewart, Okay Collective, Hand Eye Society, Mix Mix Dance Collective, Ashima Suri, Christopher Willes, WordPlay Collective, and Girls Rock Camp Toronto.

Community feedback on the Artist in the Library program has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants welcome the opportunity to learn a new skill, develop a talent, and to connect with others in the community. But, most of all, what people talk about–whether through writing, painting, dancing, or acting–is the joy of creating and sharing stories.

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