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Scotch Plains Library Celebrates History and Reading

Opening reception features art honoring the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and unveils the receipt of an NEA Big Read grant.

Some of New Jersey’s finest young artists were recognized Monday evening at the during the opening reception for "Honor History - Envision the Future."

The exhibit, which features posters and paintings of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty designed by graduates of New Jersey City University, was one of two occasions the library was celebrating. The other was a $5,000 grant the facility received to host Big Read. The program, which was created to restore and encourage reading, is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts.

In attendance at Monday’s reception were Joanne Bruno, NJCU’s Interim President; Barbara Feldman, Dean of William J. Maxwell College of Arts & Sciences; Meg Kolaya, Director, Scotch Plains Library; NJCU professors and deans; and several artists, patrons, and library trustees.

“We were attending a meeting in one of the dean’s offices at NJCU,” Kolaya said, explaining how the posters made their way to the library. “Some of the images were hanging up in the office. We thought it would be a great kick-off for our Dream Big initiative to have the posters here.”

The students’ posters are a result of their entries into a recent competition to create a logo and poster honoring the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. After judging was complete late last year, NJCU student Joseph Domalewski won for the winning logo and Felipe Barros designed the winning poster.

“The participation in the competition and the work that it produced is a testament to our faculty and talented, wonderful students,” said Feldman. “They do great work. We’ve only just begun the kind of work we can do.”

Joanne Bruno, Interim President at NJCU, agreed. “We’re an undiscovered gem,” she said. “We can bring such diversity with this partnership. We need to reinvest in public higher education and this is part of it.”

The vibrant and history-inspired posters, which will be on display until August 17, include images of families hugging as they view the Statue of Liberty, a close-up view of diversity of hands, a view of three sinks in a bathroom at Ellis Island, a one-eyed man sitting on a bench, and a sci-fi inspired piece of work.

Bayonne artist and NJCU graduate Ray Greaves used oils to paint a creative piece focusing on Ellis Island.

“We went on a tour around the island,” Greaves said. “We spent a semester working on our paintings. My interpretation was sea creatures and aliens because I like science fiction.”

Greaves, along with artist Sidra Hassan, will work with youngsters at library this summer, showing them how to turn an idea into a finished piece of art.

Midway through Monday evening’s festivities, Kolaya made the announcement about the library’s receipt of the Big Read grant. The Big Read, managed by Arts Midwest, provides communities across the country with the opportunity to read and discuss one of 31 books from U.S. and world literature. The Scotch Plains project will focus on the book “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. Lead-up programs and events will happen from October 2012 through April 2013. Specific activities will occur in May and June 2013.

The library will host read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings, and performing arts events. Participating communities also receive educational materials to supplement each book. Scotch Plains Public Library is one of 78 non-profit organizations to receive a grant.

“We are proud to partner with the Scotch Plains – Fanwood School District, Literacy Volunteers of Union County, Inc., New Jersey City University, and the Friends of the Scotch Plains Public Library, to offer musical events, lectures, book discussion groups, including interaction with Julia Alvarez, and classroom involvement with several of Julia Alvarez’s works,” Kolaya said in an issued statement.

During the summer, she explained during Monday night’s reception, several NJCU professors will do lectures on the history of the Dominican Republic, women’s issues and more. Kolaya also  unveiled the poster for the Big Read project, which was created by graphic designer Ana Rodrigues. Rodrigues is currently a grad student at NJCU. “I could have done the poster literally and done a butterfly,” she said. “But the book on the poster opens up like a butterfly and the font I used plays into the movement as well.”   

For more information about the exhibit and the Big Read, visit www.scotlib.org or neabigread.org.

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