Little Free Library sculptures on exhibit in Hattiesburg

Little Free Library sculptures on exhibit in Hattiesburg

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Hattiesburg alliance for public art

The Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art (HAPA) and Hattiesburg Arts Council will host an exhibit of 20 Little Free Libraries created by local artists, architects, contractors, city employees, businesses, neighborhood associations, and children. The exhibit and reception will be held on Saturday, February 7, from 3:00 to 5:00 at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center. Visitors are encouraged to bring a gently used book to donate to the cause, since following the Take a Look/Find a Book exhibit, all the libraries will be stocked and placed in pedestrian-friendly areas throughout town.

Local architect and HAPA board member Larry Albert designed four unique libraries which were constructed by area contractors and are being painted by artists. The structures include a juke box to be placed on Mobile Street, a miniature train depot and high-rise building for The Historic Train Depot and Katz Park, and—a special surprise for librarian extraordinaire Pamela Pridgen--a miniature version of the library building which is being painted by none other than William (Bill) Baggett, the nationally renowned mural artist whose works include "The Spirit That Builds," the 167-foot circular mural inside the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County.

"These contractors are all great local citizens," Albert said. "Charlie Finnegan of Finlo, Dorian Shoemake of D.C. General, Butch Nobles of Nobles Construction, and Scott Humphrey of B.W. Sullivan Building Contractor, every one of them jumped at the chance to build and donate these libraries, and all they asked of me was that we put them in areas where they could be easily accessed by some of our under-served population."

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree has also been an avid supporter of the effort. "The very first donation we received came from the mayor," said Rebekah Stark Johnson, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Arts Council. "The mayor provided funding for several children's books in hopes of encouraging parents to read more frequently to their young children." City workers also gathered scrap materials to build five libraries for housing children's books. Those libraries will be placed at city parks and community centers and were painted by artists Kim Whitt, Matt Holland, Hector Boldo, and Vixon Sullivan, as well as the children participating in Hattiesburg's smART space program under the guidance of Abigail Lenz Allen.

Other area youth who are participating include young abstract artist Cade Slaughter who is painting a library for The Oaks Neighborhood Association and the Boy Scouts of Troops 448 and 449 who worked with artist Alejandro Wooten to decorate a library for Trinity Episcopal Church, sponsor of the ScoutReach troops. Art students at Oak Grove High School are constructing a library for the Edwards Street Fellowship Center.

HAPA president Becky Montague is elated with the community's response to the new alliance's first initiative. "Hattiesburg was obviously ready for a public art program," she said. "There's been a great outpouring of support from artists, the business community, local government, and neighbors. We're collaborating like I've never seen before."

Adolfo Pardo has built several of the structures for participants including Trustmark Bank's Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Co., Hattiesburg Concert Association, and Keg & Barrel. Petal artist Ashlea Odom is creating a library for her neighborhood as are Sarah Mangrum, Matt Carr and Jessica Lightfoot for their Kamper Avenues neighborhood. Ben Morrison is at work on a library for Earl Travillion Attendance Center.

All the libraries will remain on exhibit through February 12, and field trips can be arranged by calling Hattiesburg Arts Council at 601.583.6005. Following the exhibit, HAPA will assist with installation and provide for charters so that all libraries can be an official part of the Little Free Library national network. Once the libraries are installed, anyone can take a book home to read and later return it to any of the little libraries in town.

Also on display at the Take a Look/Find a Book exhibit will be the small sculptures of folk artist Sylvia Moore, a custodian at Bolton-Edwards Middle School whose tiny sculptural habitats are constructed with found objects.

The Hattiesburg Tourism Commission will provide trolley service between the Cultural Center and Oddfellows Gallery for those interested in attending both the Take a Look/Find a Book exhibit and an exhibit of the watercolor and mixed media works of Rosemary Wells. Ms. Wells is an award-winning children's book author whose well-known characters include Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko.