Donate an Arts Book
Norbert Loeffler speaks with local resident Maggie Macdonald about the benefits of pooling our books …
The Arts Library is not yet built, but we are already eager for suitable art and architecture books. Do you have any to donate? Fill out the form below so we can arrange a time to come and have a look. We can’t walk away with them just yet, we’ll need a brick and mortar Arts Library first, not just this hope, this dream. But if you are hoping and dreaming, too, then we will keep a list of the books you have, so once the library is built, we’ll come knocking.
About the Arts Library
Various levels of government enable ample opportunities for a rich engagement in the arts through theatres, museums, galleries and music festivals. One shortfall, however, is that if we are to familiarise ourselves with the play, ballet or opera we are about to see, we have often to resort to Google. While effective to a point, the deep knowledge that makes each artform resonate through an intoxicating immersion into unexpected territories where we encounter new ways of seeing, thinking and being—can only be found in an arts library.
Arts libraries, however, are the secluded domain of academic researchers and tertiary students who pay considerable fees for the privilege. As such, art and architecture becomes specialist knowledge.
Why, though, need specialist books in art and architecture be the preserve of specialists, only? Why can’t we lay people access this far more geared engagement to become as deeply informed and to have our lives as equally enriched as a consequence?
Yes, we can always go the State Library. But how many times have you been this month? Year? Okay, last five years? Still not convinced?
Ask anyone in St Kilda about its importance in art, and it’s probably only an artist who will rattle off a dozen influential figures who once lived, practiced, exhibited or made work that referenced here. Even today, locals walk the streets with named artists highly respected in Australia’s art circles, whose work is unknown in St Kilda. This would be fine, if it were not for the fact St Kilda prides itself on an artistic heritage that attracts developers, gentrifies the neighbourhood and drives artists unable to pay increased rents, out of its streets, to make those promoting St Kilda sound if not hypocritical, at least a little fake.
In 1988, Paul Taylor wrote in the New York Times:
Of any neighbourhood in Australia, St. Kilda, situated on one of Melbourne’s sunny downtown beaches, is the one with the greatest number of artistic associations, embodying all the contradictions of Australian urban life. The district, the closest thing to an Australian bohemia, is noted for its mix of punk-rockers and tourists, prostitutes and drug abusers, as well as Australia’s largest Jewish population. From the “Angry Penguins” art movement of the late 1930’s and 40’s to the New Wave art scene of the early 80’s, it has also supported a variety of artistic factions. In the words of the painter Jenny Watson, “this is our East Village.” But the sense of real conflict, as well as the infusions of big money that characterised New York’s East Village art scene until very recently, is missing here. Like the Australian art world as a whole, St. Kilda’s artists have a sense of identity and pride, but little idea of where to go with it.
Of any neighbourhood in Australia, St Kilda is the one best placed to turn the tide of ignorance we have about our own Australian artists.
The arts library at Church Square would collect books, catalogues and ephemera of local and nation-wide artists—past, present and future. The arts library would also represent the indigenous culture of the area, history of Church Square and St Kilda.
Social benefits of an Arts Library
Below is an excerpt from pages 15-16 of GH’s updated Heritage Victoria submission.
The potential for an Arts Library, Garden and International Artist Residency and Gallery to recommit Church Square to its historic role as central to a socially cohesive community, is supported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest census figures, where Libraries, Art Galleries and Botanical gardens are all well attended.
A synopsis for a recently published book Palaces for the People: How To Build a More Equal and United Society by Eric Klinenberg, points out that,
Too often we take for granted and neglect our libraries, … gardens and communal spaces, but decades of research now shows that these places can have an extraordinary effect on our personal and collective wellbeing. Why? Because wherever people cross paths and linger, wherever we gather informally, strike up a conversation and get to know one another, relationships blossom and communities emerge – and where communities are strong, people are safer and healthier, crime drops and commerce thrives, and peace, tolerance and stability take root. … Palaces for the People shows that properly designing and maintaining this `social infrastructure’ might be our single best strategy for a more equal and united society.
In a Guardian article on the book, the writer states,
Libraries are not the kinds of institutions that most social scientists, policymakers, and community leaders usually bring up when they discuss social capital and how to build it. But they offer something for everyone… and all of it for free. … [L]ibraries and their social infrastructure are essential not only for a neighborhood’s vitality but also for buffering all kinds of personal problems – including isolation and loneliness. … There are more people living alone than at any point in history. That’s worrisome because, as a large body of scientific research now shows, social isolation and loneliness can be as dangerous as more publicized health hazards, including obesity and smoking. And while these problems may be particularly acute in older people in struggling neighborhoods …, they’re hardly confined to them.
To this respect, while the Australian 2013-14 statistics show attendance at cinemas declines over the age groups, the attendance at libraries remains comparatively constant, with the highest attendance for the age group 65-74 years.