curated by Rachel Gugelberger


One of the pleasures of the incubator role played by Artspace is our ability to periodically put out our antenna, ask curators what exhibitions they are hoping to organize, and become a launching pad for the best new ideas. In 2007, when Rachel Gugelberger shared her concept for an exhibition about the changing relationship between readers and libraries, we knew it was a match for us.

New Haven is the ideal community to host the exhibition Library Science as it boasts an unusually large number of libraries for a city of its size, including an array of the notable, unconventional, and historic. Among Yale’s numerous libraries is the largest building in the world reserved exclusively for the preservation of exceptional volumes—The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Young Men's Institute Library, Connecticut's oldest living literary institution and one of the last remaining membership libraries in North America, has been revived under energetic young leadership (making its name especially apt). The Whitney Library at the New Haven Colony Historical Society focuses on the history of New Haven from Colonial times to the present, with a trove of photographs that is rarely seen. The New Haven Free Public Library was one of the first in the country to create a separate Children’s Room; it also features magnificent murals created under the Public Works Administration. A lively community of librarians adds to the landscape, thanks to one of the nation’s leading library science degree-granting programs, based at Southern Connecticut State University.

I was drawn to this idea for more personal reasons too, including my belief in the library as a place of liberation, pride, and struggle. Growing up in New York City, for me the public library on East 23rd Street (a Carnegie Library known as the Epiphany branch) was a quiet oasis where an independent, but bookish, adolescent could find joy in serendipitous discovery. I loved the space, the interior light, the refuge, even the surly librarian! (Barnes & Noble was still just a one-store operation; although it had already spread to both sides of Fifth Avenue, there was no room for any seats, let alone a comfortable chair.) My dear aunt, who helped raise me, was a reference librarian at the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum. Although I was too young to truly understand what she did, I always felt pride in her connection to the exhibitions through the curatorial research she made possible. Her participation in the annual meeting of the Arts Libraries Society of North America was a highlight of her professional activities, through which she introduced me to many colleagues. Today, as a progressive community organizer, I love to see how people of all backgrounds come together in a public library, united in their search for knowledge.

The realization of this exhibition and the commissioning project that sprang from it are tremendous causes for celebration, as they mark Artspace’s return to its commitment to offer artists new modes of production outside traditional arts settings. Artspace has often invited artists to forge relationships with people and enterprises outside the art world, notably with manufacturers (Factory Direct, 2005) and hotels (50,000 Beds, 2007), supporting them with time, space, and funds to give visual form to the unique stories of the partners’ sites.

Libraries and librarians are initiating previously unimagined forms of collaboration, so it is particularly appropriate for Artspace to be able to work with local institutions to allow the project to take root in our community. I am indebted to our colleagues Susan Gibbons and Amanda Patrick at Sterling Memorial Library; James Campbell, and Jason Bischoff at The Whitney Library at the New Haven Museum; Will Baker, Eva Geertz and Stephen Kobasa at the Institute Library; Jae Rossman and Allen Townsend at the Art of the Book Library within the Haas Arts; and Carol Brown, Brad Bullis, Cathy DeNigris, Kathy Hurley, and Seth Godfrey at the New Haven Free Public Library. Without the access to their collections that they facilitated, the artists selected by Artspace could not have achieved the nuanced installations now on view.

I am especially pleased that the commissioned projects oriented themselves around digital interventions. Envisioning engrossing and often whimsical models of interaction with the libraries’ collections, these projects give tremendous hope for the continued vitality of the information management field. Artspace salutes all the artists who submitted proposals for residencies, and thanks Colin Burke, Andy Deck & Carol Padberg, Heather Lawless, Meredith Miller & Rob Rocke, and Tyler Starr for the outpouring of energy and innovation that led to their successful installations. The relationships between artists and librarians forged as a result of these residencies will impact the institutions long after the installations are gone. It is my hope that, through these residencies, we will also capture the attention of many more artists who will choose to make use of the collections to further their work.

We are exceptionally fortunate that Library Science also seeded collaboration between Artspace and the Connecticut Library Consortium. The CLC is an expert convener of librarians across the state and we relied extensively on their knowledge of public programming geared to individual cities and towns to shape the film festival. We could not have navigated the intricate web of rights, permissions, and screening logistics without the extraordinary help of Deborah Zulick. Both Deb and CLC Director Jill Dugas Hughes were generous with their ideas and time and we look forward with anticipation to many more interactions that will create awareness of the issues facing libraries among artists and the greater public.

I must acknowledge the many people who served as our sounding boards, champions, and reference librarians to make it possible for Artspace to present this multi-faceted project. For their early enthusiasm and involvement, I would like to thank former Artspace colleague (and librarian manqué) Leslie Kuo, former Artspace board member and Yale Press Director John Donatich, and artist/funder/urban library ambassador Maryann Ott. Thanks to his early enthusiasm, David Boudinot, Librarian at the Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton, helped us attract the vital support of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism for the statewide film festival.

A seminal moment took place in a meeting with Kerri Sancomb and Jae Rossman, when they revealed how few area artists were aware of the available resources and collections at the Haas Arts Library. This was the genesis of the idea to create residencies that would enable artists to access more of the visual culture collection while tapping the help of service-oriented reference colleagues—including some who are themselves artists.

The design team, Jason Carreira of Loop Designs, Nancy Sepe of Star Hill Studio, Reynard Loki, and Joshua Wang, an intern in his final year at University of New Haven, offered sensitive treatment of voluminous information. Mia Orsatti took the stunning installation photographs and Caleb Hendrickson shot and produced the video on view in the gallery. Interns Ilana Harris-Babou (whose summer work was made possible, with our gratitude, by the Yale Presidential Public Service Fellowship), and Sinclaire Marber impressed us with their consummate professionalism and aplomb, ensuring that the project hummed all the way to completion. Michael Galvin and Martha Lewis absorbed exhibition installation and project management duties with tremendous dedication and good will. Michael oversaw a construction crew that expertly transformed the gallery in just four days. Essential support for the project was also provided by Moses Balian, Carol Cozzuto, Joy Daniels, Caleb Henrickson, Eric Litke, Courtney McCaroll, Meagan Monagan, Nick Pfaff, Kyle Skar, Lizzy Star, Kevin Stevens, Paul Theriault, Kadija Tyrell, Lucy Topoloff, Florence Waks, Mark Williams, Timothy Young, and Jeremy Wolin.

Special projects such as Library Science rely on the generosity of enlightened patrons, and we are indebted to those who are helping to underwrite this specific exhibition and proud to count them among our funders: Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, through their Strategic Initiative Grants program (especially Rhonda Olisky), the David T. Langrock Foundation, which specifically supported the presentation of the work of Philippe Gronon and Candida Höfer, and the National Endowment for the Arts, for supporting the commissions of the new work sited at nearby libraries. In addition, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, and generous Friends of Artspace are providing general support to Artspace for this year’s exhibitions. Thank you all.

Finally, for bringing her ideas to Artspace, I reserve immense gratitude for Rachel Gugelberger. She graciously took on expanded creative roles beyond the central exhibition, enriching the project by organizing a statewide film festival, serving on the panel which reviewed proposals from artists seeking to undertake residencies and commissions at local libraries, and developing the online catalogue. She deftly handled all the interactions with the lenders, and we are very appreciative of her frugal approach to organizing this provocative exhibition. The creation of an online catalogue—her idea—is another triumph, reflecting the fluid nexus between the analog and the digital, offering the chance to organize and reorganize the culture and content of the project in unlimited ways. The site will evolve over the coming months as librarians and others contribute and react to it; it thus reflects, in its format and spirit, the mix of ideas embodied in the exhibition Library Science.

Helen Kauder
Executive Director
November 11, 2011