Often times, when people think about the Bubbler, they think about a room at Madison's Central Library - especially when considering our Artist-in-Residence program. But really, Bubblering happens everywhere - At the Central Library sure, but also in schools, parks, community centers, and each of our nine neighborhood libraries.
This fall, local Artist Bird Ross did a mini residency at the Hawthorne neighborhood library. A part of the Hawthorne community, Bird was delighted to consistently be at Hawthorne as an artist and programmer to build relationships with the library staff and patrons over three months.
Rather than simply dropping in to do a one-off program, the residency allowed stronger collaboration between Bird and the librarians, especially youth services librarian Tracy Moore and library assistant Amy Sabo.
"It was so nice to work with someone for a longer period of time to build something together, and see it change and grow to best fit our patrons," Tracy told us, "especially having an artist who was so excited to work with such a wide range of patrons from kids to adults."
The feelings were mutual. Bird said, "I adore what Tracy and the librarians at Hawthorne are doing. It feels like a hub and has so much energy and has such a broad reach of their population. The staff has a devotion to their neighborhood. It was awesome to be a part of that."
That board reach, the variety of ages and skill levels of participants in Bird's workshops, definitely kept her on her toes. "I never knew who was going to show up!" she said, but as an artist, that only built the richness of the experience. "It made me more adaptable in my practice and in my planning and really challenged me in a new way that I loved."
At Madison Public Library, we see the library not only as place to find books and resources, but as a place to connect to the community and have new experiences. "I loved being in the middle of the library," Bird said, "not just in the meeting room, but in the children’s area, and right out in front where I could talk to people and engage."
Bird works extensively with textiles, and encouraged patrons during her pop up sessions and workshops to come and stitch with her. Whether patrons came specifically for the event, or just happened to be in the library that day, they walked away with a new skill and a stronger connection to the library.
During one of her sewing pop-ups, Bird was excited to see the focus and intensity of two little boys working on stitching projects. Sewing can be considered a gendered activity, but having the activity pop up in the library removed that perception barrier. They had such a good time the family came back for her second pop up. "It was great to see them get to engage again and watch their ideas grow to be more complex," she said.
Joy in Making
Both Bird and Tracy agreed that the Hat Making Workshops during the residency were their favorite. Rather than providing a template or instructions for making a hat, Bird simply provided a huge variety of materials to engage with.
She would introduce kids to the idea, but then let them go off on their own to discover and set goals.
One little boy was dead set on making a Leopard Hat. "What is a Leopard Hat?! I thought!" Bird laughed, "but hey, he had a goal and I went with it. 'How about we start with some spots?' I suggested."
The kids' enthusiasm and joy was contagious. Their engagement caused their caregivers to join in fun, setting their own hat goals and staying as long, or longer to make.
When we asked Bird and Tracy if they would like to try another residency, they both answered with a resounding "definitely!" We're excited about what will be Bubbling up at Hawthorne in the near future.