Creative Colleagues Collaborate on Art

Excerpt of In, Out/Deep, Slow—a monoprint by Elisa Lanzi, libraries.

Collaborating with colleagues is part of the routine for Smith staff, but it isn’t every day that the teamwork results in the creation of works of art.

With that in mind, Mimi Lempart, electronic and continuing resources supervisor in Neilson Library, on the occasion of her retirement after 40 years at Smith, has coordinated a staff art exhibit that highlights collaboration among libraries employees.

“We’ve been collaborating more and more in our work,” Lempart says of she and her colleagues, “on projects and on just getting the work done, so I put that out there as an optional theme.”

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“Hyacinths,” a watercolor by Karen Kukil, libraries

Her idea struck a chord, and artwork by about 30 libraries staff members compose Creative Colleagues, an exhibition on display through May 27 in the Book Arts Gallery on the third floor of Neilson Library. Works on view include video, paintings, drawings and photography, as well as ceramics and other handcrafts, many of them collaborative. View a selection of works online.

A reception for the exhibition will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with music by a small ensemble that includes mandolin player Barbara Blumenthal,  rare book specialist in the Mortimer Rare Book Room.

“It is a revelation and a delight for me and my co-workers,” says Blumenthal of the exhibition, “and I hope it is, too, for students, faculty, other staff, and the general public, to see what librarians do when we’re not at work.”

“It has been an eye-opener to see how people approach collaboration,” says Lempart. “Some people are working on one piece together; others are working on a theme together but making their own separate pieces.”

An example of the latter is a pair of works by co-electronic resources associates in the libraries—a wood block print by Rose Reynolds based on a photograph taken by Glen Mahoney.

Creative Colleagues is an opportunity to highlight the artistic talents of library staff,  says Lempart, but it had other positive effects, too. “One person said, ‘Just the idea of this got me to pick up my camera and go out and take photographs last week.’ For me that’s really heartwarming.”

Lempart is also presenting a collaborative work. She and Blumenthal have been working together on a piece they call Floratanglia, a “unique artist book” with an unfolding structure that combines Lempart’s training in a meditative drawing practice called Zentangle with Blumenthal’s knowledge of bookbinding.

Lempart joined the Neilson staff in 1974, then moved to the Hillyer Art Library for 16 years, starting in 1976, before returning to Neilson in 1992. After her retirement, she and her husband plan to live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they met in graduate school.