Two planned library exhibits, turned digital in the time of Covid-19 closures, connect visual arts with literature
SOUTHBRIDGE – With Jacob Edwards Library closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the library’s popular monthly art exhibit on the main floor had to be presented in an online-only format. The space books at least up to sixth months in advance and can be a significant source of recognition for artists in any medium. Some featured artists have exhibited in a variety of spaces over the span of a long career. For others, the monthly show serves as an exciting first exhibit. For the April and May featured artists, the planned shows represented an early stage of public recognition.
Both exhibits feature an interaction of visual art with the written word. April’s exhibit featured the work of Stephanie Cyr, the library’s Adult Services Librarian. The exhibit includes a collection of poems or other written work by authors as far back as Biblical times, each written out in careful calligraphic writing by Cyr. The exhibit of Cyr’s methodical calligraphy was supplemented by several items from the 19th century that were inscribed by their owners in calligraphy, “providing a glimpse into the value placed on books and other printed items during that time.”
“The selected pieces all have a significant personal meaning to me; several have to do with the themes of love, and loss, which I feel represents major aspects of life in a microcosm,” says Cyr.
May’s exhibit is a collection of hand-made jewelry made by Emily Daly of E.V.D’s Whimsies. Each piece is inspired by literature and books and the jewelry contains text cut from the pages of old books. Daly works with a variety of materials, including semi precious stones, czech glass beads, and handmade lacquered paper beads made from the pages books.
“I’ve always loved the beauty of language. It felt natural for me to combine my two passions, literature and art, in one form,” Daly remarks.
Both artists started working on their craft from an early age, encouraged by teachers or mentors that provided them with advice or opportunity. Both women also found careers that reflect the value they place on reading and literature. Stephanie Cyr is the Adult Services Librarian at Jacob Edwards Library and Daly is an English Literature and Composition instructor at Quinsigamond Community College.
Cyr first learned about the craft of calligraphy in art classes at Southbridge High School. She was encouraged to explore her interest in calligraphy from former Southbridge High School art teachers Donna Silverberg and Kalthleen (Simonelli) Sterczal.
“I took to the craft immediately, and was inspired and influenced by the beauty of the letters, the creations that include fine lettering, such as medieval manuscripts, and the precision of technique.I appreciated the control and formality required to produce calligraphic alphabets,” Cyr recalls.
Daly started making jewelry about 17 years ago when as a teenager, she worked at Tatnuck Beads in Worcester. The shop owner encouraged Daly’s talent and allowed her to display original jewelry creations in the store windows.
“Over the years I’ve continued to pursue my love of jewelry making, and sell my work online and at various craft fairs, festivals, and farmers markets. Most notably, I’ve participated annually in Worcester’s Out To Lunch Farmers Market and Concert Series, as well as the Saint Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Bazaar in Southbridge,” Daly reports
Both Cyr and Daly reflect on how the library closure during the Covid-19 pandemic impacts their show with optimism based in the power and importance of art.
“During a global crisis such as the one we are facing now, we need to seek solace in the words of our beloved writers and poets, as well as celebrate the creativity of our local arts communities. Literature and art have the power to unite us and remind us of what it means to be essentially human. No virus can take away the power of individual creativity,” reflects Daly.
Cyr also commented on the humanizing power of art, especially in challenging times.
“I knew that my show would not be viewed by the public as we were closed, but the opportunity to share the show digitally was a fantastic one. I was granted the opportunity to share beautiful words written by amazing people, and I think in difficult times, we need to remember that there is indeed beauty in this world,” Cyr says.
“Poetry as a genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, poetry equals emotions, and we all have those- emotions are something we can all relate to, and in difficult times such as these, emotions can be heightened. They can feel overwhelming. Poetry has always been a way for me to find my footing when I felt the ground becoming shaky beneath me, and I hope others would also find the peace, the calm, the introspection, and the beauty that poetry evokes,” Cyr offers.
Both of these shows have been available during their display month on the Jacob Edwards Library website and Facebook page. In-person exhibits for both shows have been rescheduled for April and May 2021.