Creating a tangible legacy
Patrons who have frequented the Meadowridge or Goodman South Madison Libraries may have had the delight of seeing the brightly colored canvas murals hanging on the walls of the program rooms. Local artist Mike Lroy’s pieces have been the colorful backdrop for community meetings, youth art clubs, English language literacy sessions, and many more events for over a year, but before that, they played a very special role for families in the Meadowridge and South Madison communities.
With Black History month on the horizon in 2021, community engagement librarian Ariel R. had an idea for a program. So much of our family history is often shared through photographs and passed down through generations, but in the current digital age, many families don’t have those tangible memories on their walls.
“Sitting for professional portraits can be expensive,” said Ariel. “We wanted to remove the burden of cost and the stress of searching for a photographer, and instead create an opportunity for families to add to their keepsake collections and create tangible memories to add to their legacy.”
“This also brings the library into our families’ collective memories as a space where they belong and are celebrated,” she reflected.
Thus, the “Capturing Moments, Creating Memories” program was born. Ariel R. (Meadowridge Library) collaborated with fellow Community Engagement Librarian Farrah M. (Goodman South Madison Library) to invite local families to sit for a free portrait. This also provided an opportunity for families to come back inside their library and have a unique, positive, and fulfilling experience.
Ultimately, renewed mask mandates pushed Ariel’s original Black History Month vision back into March and April of 2022. But the extended planning time also allowed the scope of the event to expand to include all BIPOC families. The program was funded through a grant from the Madison Public Library Foundation.
“We also left it up to the community to define their family unit. This expanded our attendance beyond nuclear family structures to single-parent homes, and child-free couples.”
Centering Community Artists & Families
Ariel and Farrah partnered with The Bubbler at Madison Public Library to hire photographer Amadou Kromah, and mural artist Mike Lroy, two popular Black artists in the Madison area.
Amadou was a member of the Bubbler's Artist Cohort in 2021 and has worked as a professional photographer for many years. Mike Lroy has previously worked with the Bubbler as well as local businesses throughout Wisconsin.
For Amadou, the sessions were an opportunity to capture the beauty of families of color.
“The thing that I enjoyed most about the experience was seeing so many positive images of everyday Black men and their families-this is not something that I see often.”
Mike Lroy created two colorful, abstract backdrops for the sessions which were a big hit with all of the attendees. In fact, they ended up being so popular that they have remained up for the community to enjoy.
“Mike’s backdrop brought immediate brightness and joy to the project, making patrons feel thought of even before they started getting their photos taken,” said Carlee L., the Program Assistant at the Bubbler. “With the photo sessions taking place at two separate locations across the city from each other, the colorful backdrops helped visually link the project in the final products, as well.”
Amadou enjoyed the enthusiasm from the youth, stating: “The energy from the children was a very common theme from one shoot to the next - it was a fun and exciting challenge to engage with the kids as they got into position for the photos. The kids would all typically begin shy, but opened up quickly once I started engaging them.”
By sharing this opportunity strategically with surrounding businesses, service offices, and community partners within the Goodman South Madison and Meadowridge Library communities, Farrah and Ariel made sure that local families who may not otherwise have had the opportunity were prioritized for this opportunity - connecting this program with the library’s values of equity, community, and engagement.
What Farrah and Ariel did not expect was for this program to become a legacy, and something our community partners were excited and delighted to share with their families again.
In February and March of 2023, Madison Public Library is delighted to host the Capturing Moments, Creating Memories program again, this year expanding to Hawthorne Library as well.