Braddock library's Art Lending Collection is part of Carnegie International

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Ruthie Stringer was a young girl when she first visited an art lending library and was allowed to pick out her very favorite artwork to take home, just like she would a book. She couldn't have imagined that her childhood experience would years later inspire a project that is part of the 2013 Carnegie International.

Ms. Stringer along with Dana Bishop-Root and Leslie Stem make up the artist collaborative Transformazium, which created an Art Lending Collection in partnership with the Braddock Carnegie Library Association. It debuts from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today as a part of the International opening weekend. Carnegie Museum of Art will provide free shuttle service to the Braddock library beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Approximately 100 artworks have been donated to the lending collection to date by Carnegie International artists, local artists and collectors, and other national and international artists who were approached by Transformazium. Anyone with an Allegheny County library card may borrow an artwork. The art must be checked out from and returned to the Braddock location. The check-out period is the same as it is for books, three weeks with the option to renew twice.

The project will have a presence at The Carnegie in the form of an exhibition of six to 10 works from the lending collection that will change every two weeks. Library patrons will select those works, assuming the role of curator, so there will be six to 10 curators per show, Ms. Stringer said.

She and her sister first encountered an art lending library in her hometown of Schenectady, N.Y., where their mother was the public library's circulation manager. She was 5 or 6 years old.

"It was kind of magical to see these artworks all together. It became a really important formative way for me to think about art," said Ms. Stringer, who is now circulation manager at the Braddock Carnegie Library.

Transformazium's founders hope their project clicks with patrons of all ages. Ms. Stem is a native of Richmond, Ind., and Ms. Bishop-Root hails from Houston. The three, all in their 30s, met in New York City, where Ms. Bishop-Root was a student at the School of Visual Arts and the others at Pratt Institute. They were affiliated with the edgy large collective Toyshop from 2001-05, doing mostly street art and graffiti. In 2007, they moved to Pittsburgh and founded Transformazium in North Braddock.

Transformazium earlier established the Neighborhood Screen Printing Shop at the library, which Ms. Stem manages. Ms. Bishop-Root is the library arts program coordinator. When the 2013 International curators invited them to submit a proposal, their association with the library and community and their idea to form an art lending service came together.

The Art Lending Collection has its own room at the library in the Solomon Center, named for former head librarian David Solomon, who worked to renovate and reopen the 1889 building when it closed in 1974. To accommodate the collection, the room was given new lighting, a wooden floor and pegboard racks to hang the art on. A number of art-related books have been purchased or acquired through donors such as Caliban Books in Oakland. The artists are raising funds to replace the current seating with more comfortable furniture.

The collection has received donations from almost all of the 2013 Carnegie International artists and from others such as CMU faculty member Ayanah Moore and Brooklyn artist Cory Arcangel. A variety of media is represented including paintings, drawings, etchings, screen prints, photographs and a few small sculptures. Most are in the 18-by- 24-inch or 24-by 30-inch range. Specially made padded bags will be available to transport the art.

"We can accommodate anything that someone could carry," Ms. Stringer said.

Transformazium also received works from three library patrons who are art collectors. Raymond Henderson, a library board member, once operated a gallery in Wilkinsburg and a Braddock poster and print shop. He was a civil rights activist and collaborator on the documentary "Struggles in Steel" with director Tony Buba. Regis Welsh taught writing at the University of Pittsburgh, is a writer and critic, and a fan of the Impressionists. Jim Kidd, 75, "has been collecting art for about 40 years and making art his whole life," Ms. Stringer said. He did a yearlong residency in the screen printing shop in 2011.

"The collectors bring multiple voices to creating the collection, introducing things we wouldn't have thought of," Ms. Stringer said.

The project has hired three facilitators to assist patrons, do research on the participating artists, help to plan public programs, and note borrowers' interests and needs. Selected for their interest in aesthetics and their communication skills, they are Mary Carey, Jonathan Reyes and Deabron Dailey, the current screen printing shop artist-in-residence.

Transformazium members have worked with them during the past six weeks, learning about the Carnegie International artists and about the artworks in the collection.

"It's important to have someone who can engage people in conversation and talk about the work," Ms. Stringer said. "So much more meaning is discovered when you talk about it."

The Art Lending Collection will continue after the Carnegie International closes as long as there is interest and funding for such necessities as framing and conservation, Ms. Stringer said. Certainly it's off to a welcoming start.


Art critic Mary Thomas: or 412-263-1925.Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: or 412-263-1925.


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