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Bubbler Artists in the Neighborhood

Bubbler Artists in the Neighborhood

Connecting to Community through Art & Making
artists wait for their sun prints to be exposed

Young artists making sun prints on the porch of Pinney Library 

Creating Opportunities for Community Collaboration

When many people think of the “Bubbler” they think of the room at Madison’s Central Library where our Artists-in-Residence are hosted. They may be surprised to learn that a majority of Bubbler programming actually happens outside that room - in our neighborhood libraries, public parks, and outreach sites across the city. 

For many years, the Bubbler team has organized rotating workshops led by artists through their Making & Learning Interns. These pop-up experiences took place in neighborhood libraries throughout the year and gave the community opportunities to interact with a variety of artists and mediums. However, the one-off or limited series option didn't allow for co-building between the community and an artist, so the Bubbler opted to build upon their popular residency model to expand artistic offerings in libraries during the summer.

With in-person programming returning in earnest to our libraries in the summer of 2022, we wanted to create more opportunities for artist and community connections, and the Bubbler Artist in the Neighborhood program took shape.

youth art display at Monroe Street library

Youth art display at Monroe Street Library 

In the summer of 2022, the Bubbler Team worked to connect each of our 8 neighborhood libraries with an artist that would thrive in their space (and beyond!) working with their target audiences. 

For instance, Pinney Library was looking for an artist who would take advantage of their outdoor patio space for projects and work with children 2 and older, while Lakeview Library wanted an artist who was excited to engage with older youth and teens. Hawthorne and Meadowridge libraries were looking for an artist to host large outdoor projects at Parks Alive events, and Monroe Street wanted someone who could create a passive, ongoing project that patrons could interact with all the time utilizing their large, street-facing window space. 

It was like playing a complex, but delightful match-making game with community artists, libraries and communities. 

youth with birdhouse

Young artist shows off her project at Goodman South Library 

Connecting Through Making

One such pairing was between artist Maria Schimer Devitt and librarian Savannah Carr at Goodman South Madison Library. 

Reflecting on her experience, Maria shared “I have learned that I love organic processes where we have enough of a container to provide structure, but flexible enough to allow for participants to help co-create the outcome. It's AMAZING for me to be part of. I loved the outdoor events where whole families would come and make art together, and I loved seeing families come back again and again at the open art studios.”

Savannah saw the magic in action, too. “One of the quieter kids who is a regular attendee of the program REALLY connected with Maria and got super creative, building different creatures and rafts that we tested out in the baby pool. Maria has this tender and inspirational way of interacting with the kids and asking them thoughtful questions. She pulled the artist out of this kiddo.”

youth making art on the Sequoya Porch

Making use of the space on the Sequoya Porch 

Building Relationships Week to Week

Working with their librarian partners, our summer artists hosted 55 different events in our neighborhood libraries in 2022 - seeing over 1,000 patrons throughout the summer. They were also present at a majority of the 25+ Parks Alive events that took place in parks across the city to offer creative outdoor projects for participants of all ages. 

We asked artists and librarians to share highlights from their summer. 

Madeleine Kain, Youth Services Librarian at Lakeview Library, shared with us, “A highlight of the summer was seeing Mike Lroy in action with the Northside community. Mike's quiet, calm confidence was inviting and engaging to kids, tweens, and teens. I witnessed multiple individuals open up to Mike, share their stories, and dive into creating art because of his chill encouragement.” 

Artist Kailea Saplan at Sequoya Library said, “I got to meet a family who recently moved from Japan. Once they found out about my program, they came to every single one. The mother of the family knew English and could speak with me, but her elementary-aged daughters didn't speak very much English. They were really shy the first time they came to the program. But as the weeks went by they became more relaxed and familiar with the program and I was able to support their needs and goals without being able to communicate deeply. (I started practicing Japanese in Duolingo and was able to say a few words to build some connection.) I feel honored to have been able to get to know them. Art and making are languages unto themselves!”

Angela Johnson at Pinney Library

Artist Angela Johnson works with families at Pinney Library 

New Opportunities for Artists & Communities in 2023

Facilitating connections through art and making between artists and the broader Madison community is what the Bubbler is all about. 

With so much success, how could we not seek to create these opportunities again? The Bubbler Artist in the Neighborhood program will return in 2023!

Open Call for Artists

We're seeking artists for the Bubbler in the Neighborhood program during the summer of 2023. If you are an artist, new or emerging, seeking to build relationships with your pocket of the city through creative projects, we encourage you to apply! Our overall target audience for the summer is youth and families, and each library will create a more specific profile for their priorities. Application deadline: March 15, 2023.



Rebecca Millerjohn
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