Entry begun Saturday, September 20, 5:45 am
Our Moby show was technically homeless after Cate Yellig confirmed that the exhibition space of the Covington Arts Gallery had been sold to a microbrewer entrepreneur. But Emma Rose and I both feel hopeful after meeting on Wednesday afternoon with Gary Pilkington, adult programmer for the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library. Arriving a few minutes before our 4 pm meeting, I was impressed to see that the spacious parking lot alongside the newly renovated building was nearly full. Our first sign that this is a vital public institution..
Gary met us at the reception desk and gave us a wonderful tour of the three-story building. “Let’s start at the top,” he said.
The light-filled stairway next to the elevator took us up to the Local History and Genealogy room. Before we entered the room, Gary said we would be welcome to show artworks on easels on the spacious elevator-and-stairway landing whose long railing overlooks the reception area below. Immediately inside the Local History and Genealogy room was an inset display case in which we would be able to display some of our art if the staff in charge of this room approved. The room has a number of cabinets and cases, about five feet high, already supporting some posters or artworks sitting on desktop easels. This would be a great space for some of our photographs or drawings. In the center of the room was a square pillar covered with horizontal slats upon which art works, or supports holding them, could be affixed. The big window facing north (toward Cincinnati) had some space nearby where an easel for a larger work would fit comfortably.
As we were exploring this space, I was delighted to see Beth Coyle, one of my former students, behind the librarian’s desk. She was hired recently by the library to do local research. I expect she will do an excellent job. In my undergraduate class on Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville during the 2010 Spring Semester. Beth wrote an excellent short story inspired by the plight of Pip in the “Castaway” chapter of Moby-Dick. In my graduate class on Emily Dickinson and Henry James during the 2011 Fall Semester, she “explored the idea of what Emily Dickinson and Henry James would look like and listen to if they were alive today.” The result was a song list of music by Streetlight Manifesto, Frank Turner, and Dead to Me for Dickinson, and one featuring Mumford & Songs, Modest Mouse, and Hanni El Ehatib for James. In addition to playing sample of this music in class, Beth presented her drawings of Punk Dickinson and Indie James as she imagined they would look today. I am delighted to know that her M.A. from our English program has led to a job in this library, and if we are able to have the Moby show here in April it would be wonderful to have her help and involvement.
Walking down to the main floor, Emma Rose and I were naturally drawn to the brick wall on the north side of the vertical shaft. From my quick reconnaissance on the way to the Loch Norse event last Friday, I had hoped that we could use this wall to hang large works such as Kathleen Piercefield’s larger-than-life Queequeg print and Abby Schlachter’s life-size Queequeg in her Coffin. Gary did not think we would allowed to pound or insert a nail or a screw into the pristine brick surface. But he did think we could probably use some of those damage-free hanging hooks which leave no mark after their adhesive surface is removed. The smooth tiled surface lining the elevator case to the south of the stairway was a potentially attractive display space, but it was not designed for hanging. And access to it was obstructed by the frame of the stairwell and by the beautiful rock garden that filled that side of the shaft.
On the main floor beyond the elevator, stairway, and reception desk there are ample, versatile areas for displaying art of many kinds. Gary took us first into the large meeting room which holds up to 100 people. This would be perfect for our two-day Marathon Reading of Moby-Dick. The room can be reconfigured as needed, which in our case could include lining the walls with Moby artworks on easels to supplement our Marathon Reading. At the head of the room is wide screen on which we could project artwork. There are also display monitors on which messages could be run or videos played. Food is allowed too, so this would be the perfect place, with the student art works still lining the walls, for the Closing Reception that will follow the Symposium on Moby-Dick and the Arts on the day after the Marathon ends.
Out in the main reading room per se, we looked first at a display case that would be perfect for Danielle Wallace’s Moby-Dick Tea Set, Nancy Vagedes’s ceramic White Whale, Emily Hyberger’s Kedger Piece, and other 3-D works. Throughout the room are walls and book-shelf fronts with more of those horizontal slats on which to attach or display artworks. A very large table-top area would be great for displaying artist books and other printed materials, including the exhibition catalog we are designing for this show. This floor also has several intimate, glassed-in conference rooms with computers and screens that would be perfect for displaying the Moby videos and website that are part of the exhibition. On the northwest corner of this floor Gary showed us a glassed-in computer room for Young Adults, already decorated by pull-down window shades with drawings in the Japanese Manga style, yet another space that might accommodate some of the art in our show. Emma Rose and I both love the idea of spreading the exhibition throughout the building, and Gary would love to see that too. This floor was full of diverse citizens reading books and using computers, another sign of an extremely vital institution.
Taking the stairs down to the Children’s level of the library opened many new possibilities. Right at the foot of the stairs is an alcove to the right that could serve as a unique, self-contained installation space in which we could perhaps suspend works from the frame of the stairwell as well as displaying them on free-standing easels.
Directly in front of the stairwell is a beautiful mosaic mural with an aquatic subject whose imagery was originally drawn by local schoolchildren—another spot against which to play off some of our Moby works. The walls of this very large room are lined with shelving above which four very large, beautiful murals are permanently installed. One wall with lower shelves is equipped with tracks near the ceiling from which depend wires displaying artwork children have been making in the library. Emma Rose has worked in the summer education program for children at the Cincinnati Art Museum and would love to do a program for children in connection with our Moby show if the staff would welcome it. In the north end of this floor there is more shelf space for art display, plus windows looking out onto a landscaped courtyard children can visit in good weather. This Children’s floor also has a small meeting room with video display and a larger room with plenty of counter space for either art works or serving food.
All in all, this public library building would be wonderful for the Moby-Dick exhibition, Marathon Reading, and Closing Reception that we envision for the weekend of April 25 – 27, 2015. Gary likes the idea of hosting Moby Comes to Covington, but of course will have to check with his branch director and other supervisors. One area where we do not have a perfect fit is that the library’s operating hours are shorter on the weekend than during the week. We would like to have the Marathon Reading from 9 to 9 on both Saturday and Sunday, days on which the library is only open from 10 to 5 and 12 to 5, respectively. They do occasionally extend their weekend hours, and if they are able to do that in our case, I believe we will have found a wonderful home for our April exhibition and Marathon Reading. Gary has two very intense weekends coming up with special projects, after which we will all be back in touch.