Letter: Friends of the JP Branch Library group responds

We write in response to Allen Spivack’s July 8 letter entitled, “Artists need to be paid appropriately.” We think he is under a few misconceptions. First, the Friends of the JP Branch Library (Friends) is a small nonprofit that exists to support the JP Branch. We are an all-volunteer organization and spending $3,000 for artwork is a large outlay from our budget. We raise much of our funds from selling used books for only $1 or $2, but we have lost that entire funding source since the branch closed last year. To fund these art purchases, we are relying on the generosity of library supporters who have chosen to donate even though the branch is closed.

Another misconception is that the Friends have some control over how funding for the renovation is being spent. The City is funding the renovation, but the City is not funding any art for the renovated branch. Unfortunately, the City has no requirement to set aside funds for art in renovated buildings. We support such funding and would gladly join the arts community to pressure the City to include it in future projects. In short, the branch would have no new permanent art upon reopening were it not for the Friends’ work to initiate and fund a Call to Artists.

Mr. Spivack states that he is a sculptor. The Friends’ Call to Artists indicates that all three pieces of artwork being commissioned must be of a limited size and two dimensional. Sculpture is not what we were looking for in this project. However, the Friends have also initiated a large-scale, exterior sculpture project for the branch and are working with the City, the Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Boston Art Commission to obtain funding. We hope Mr. Spivack and other local artists will consider submitting a proposal for that project when funding becomes available.

Finally, we take umbrage with the suggestion that the Friends treat artists as “an afterthought” and don’t value or appreciate the artists in our community. Indeed, we do. We took on this project to ensure that three local artists would have their work included in the permanent collection of the BPL – something no other library friends group has ever even attempted. Moreover, the Friends have shown repeatedly their commitment to artists by funding events in the branch that feature JP artists. We spent 12 years working to get the JP Branch renovated for our community and every step of the way we advocated for rotating gallery space in the renovated branch, something not included in most other branch libraries. In addition, we are working to create an ongoing affiliation with local arts organizations to make sure the new gallery space is filled with work from local artists.

Don Haber and Gretchen Grozier

Co-Chairs, Friends of the JP Branch Library

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