Art on the Brain


I am no artist, but I really love the excitement and creativity that comes with hosting art programs in the library. I just spent the last year working on a project called Art MeetUp where I worked with several of my CCCL colleagues. First, I'd like to give a big shout-out to my library peeps Seng Lovan, Christian Gendron, Jeff Gibson, and Stephen DeFrank!

My team and I came up with the idea for Art MeetUp after talking with a number of new adults, specifically those between the ages of 18 and 24. We found that their main focus in life is classes, homework, jobs, and spending time with friends and family — leaving little time to relax, rejuvenate or play. We began to brainstorm how the library could help the new adult crowd, and we came up with Art MeetUp. 

At first, our ideas were gigantic: an after-hours disco, a party bus and even a huge outdoor picnic with tons of food. We eventually realized we could go with a simpler plan and still achieve something great.

Art MeetUp participants eating pizza

We finally paired down our plan to art supplies, paper, pizza and candy. But where would we go to roll out our newfound program? We decided to partner with a local college and went to the campus one afternoon after lunch. We set up tables in the main quad and covered them with art supplies and paper. We had pizzas delivered from a local pizza place in hopes that we would attract some willing participants. We had no idea if the students would shun us for being outsiders, but soon a few came over and asked us what we were doing. We told them we were from the library and asked if they would like to create some art. 

Many said they couldn’t draw, but we told them no art experience was necessary and that they could doodle, draw, create anything they wanted. Suddenly, we were surrounded by students and they were beaming while eating pizza and laughing at the pictures their friends were drawing. Some were quite sophisticated artists and others were having fun drawing their favorite cartoon characters from when they were little. It was really amazing to see all of them relaxing; the playfulness seemed to reduce the stress in their lives for just a little while. 

All of the students thanked us for coming out to their campus and hoped that we would return again soon. We brought over 100 students to our tables that day and the joy we all felt after we packed up and headed back to the library was really amazing. 

Art MeetUp participant drawing

After our Art MeetUp outreach success, I was so inspired that I began to think of how I could bring an art program into the library for older teens and new adults. That is how I started to get art on the brain. I wanted to create a safe space where they could gather around, hang out and play with different art projects. Art HangOut was born. My main goal for this program is to provide that same relaxing and cathartic experience that sparks as much playfulness as the Art MeetUp event. 

If you are interested in starting an art program — whether it be in the library or an outreach event — there are many websites that can inspire you. Here are some ideas for art projects to get the fun started and the creativity flowing!

Crystalline and tissue collage papers: This is a really neat mixed-media art project that would be great for journal pages or framed on the wall.

Pushpin wall art: Make your own eye-catching signs and wall hangings.

Pen and ink doodle portraits: This looks so cool! Teens will love to doodle their own portraits or maybe even a portrait of their friend or favorite pet.

Inkr iPad app: This is a pretty awesome app that would be great for any art program. Teens can draw pictures and then use the Inkr app to apply their drawing onto the iPad and continue their project online!

Turn an old book into an art journal: Making art journals by using old books. This is a great way to make a journal, and it’s a great way to recycle old books!