October 10, 2011
11-177

Jessica R. Pope Communications Specialist

The Art of Intelligence: Odum Library Takes on New Role

 

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University’s Odum Library recently underwent a transformation that made it both a place for research and a place for discovery, a destination promoting education through the unexpected.

It all started when some members of the VSU community realized the library was sitting on a goldmine.

“Turns out the library has by far the largest art collection in the university,” said Deborah S. Davis, certified archivist, director of VSU Archives and Special Collections, and chairwoman of the Library Art Committee. “In fact … we have enough for a small museum …”

On Friday, Oct. 28, the Odum Library will officially introduce the VSU and South Georgia communities to its Art in Odum initiative. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can view the various exhibits, talk to some of the artists, and learn more about the future of this ongoing project. Refreshments will be served.

Some might question expanding a university library’s scope to include an art gallery. However, combining the world of art appreciation with the learning environment just might make perfect sense, as there are tight correlations between art endeavors and cognitive abilities.

“Scientists recently discovered that arts training can cause dramatic changes in the brain, including possibly strengthening the attention network, a series of regions linked to general intelligence,” noted The Dana Foundation (www.dana.org), a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants and educates the public about the successes and potential of brain research.

ART IN ODUM BEGINNINGS

In 2009, VSU began renovating the north side of the Odum Library. Over the course of roughly two years, crews painted, added 12 new study rooms, and installed new carpeting, wiring, lighting, a ceiling, and more.

“It looks really good now,” Davis said.

During the renovation, Davis said the staff had to remove everything from the library’s walls -- pictures, art, and plaques.

“For the art, mainly that was the Dodd Collection, a set of paintings and prints that was given to us in 1978,” she said. “As we took it down and packed it up, we were rather appalled at the condition of the paintings … and we recognized some of the artists. So, we packed it away with a resolution to clean it before it went back up …
During this period, we received, based on a recommendation from the Art Department, a donation of large paintings, drawings, sculptures from New York artist Ross Rosenberg. We cleaned, photographed, described, and rolled up the canvases, thinking … we really should exhibit them someday.”

Around that same time, Davis said VSU formed a committee to advise the campus on acquisitions and policies regarding its art holdings and to provide funds to acquire art. The University Art Committee’s first project, she said, was to conduct an inventory of campus art, which resulted in the discovery of the library’s substantial collection.

“This was created and handled by the VSU Archives and led to a lot of research about our art,” she said.

When the library renovation was complete in January of 2011, the more specifically focused Library Art Committee formed and, with some financial assistance from the university’s Art Funding Pool, began working to make the Art in Odum project a reality.

“We cleaned, varnished, researched, talked to artists, arranged, wrote … It’s what we did from April through early August [of] 2011,” Davis said. “We worked with the VSU carpenters to hang the pieces securely and build the sculpture bases. We worked with [VSU Fine Arts] Gallery Director Julie Bowland to hang and present the works to gallery specs.”

ART IN ODUM TODAY

The Odum Library currently has two collections on display. The Lamar Dodd Collection is housed on the north side’s first floor and features 20 paintings and prints from a variety of significant 20th century and a few 19th century artists. The Ross Rosenberg Collection is housed on the north side’s second floor and features 15 very big paintings and drawings, 15 very tiny drawings, and two sculptures.

Also hanging inside the library, in the Hub Gallery Area on the north side’s second floor, is Amalia Amaki’s “For the Love of Books,” which was created in memory of William H. Mobley IV, who supported Odum Library through book donations over the years, and four pieces from the Charles and Jeannette Kessler Collection of East Asian Art.

“… I grew up in a public library, which had a lot of art in it,” Davis said. “The director had vision, and she would buy things or get them donated, and people would make donations to put memorials into the library in honor of someone, so we would get an antique crystal chandelier or a wire sculpture or something. I thought all libraries were like that. Libraries open up the world through access to books, the Internet, and this is just another kind of access. One of the things we were careful to do was to put in a lot of documentation … like artist biographies and info about different styles … [because] we wanted … (people) to look and learn … we wanted to give students the experience of art as part of their everyday world because really you need to look at art over and over again so that it becomes part of your experience of a place. And that is what’s happening.”

ART IN ODUM FUTURE

When the Odum Library’s third floor roof is complete in early 2012, Davis said that the Library Art Committee plans to display works by VSU faculty, staff, and students, as well as some special collections.

“We’ll have VSU and Valdosta artists,” she said. “… Julie Bowland just donated a panting for that gallery, and it’s beautiful. We would love to get more local artists to donate. We’ll have some really good reproductions of illuminated manuscripts that were donated by William Mobley, ceramic ballerinas, Western carvings -- just a lot of things. It will be really nice when we get done.”

Regarding the art on the library’s first and second floors, Davis said that some of the art is permanently attached to the wall due to the openness of the library and lack of security. However, a gallery space on the second floor will be home to rotating art. For example, right now it features the Rosenberg Dream Series, but after the first of the year, it will showcase more pieces from the Kessler Collection.

“We also have a few other places, like the first floor display cabinets, that rotate,” she said, adding that the library has around 150 to 200 pieces of art in its possession, one of the most valuable collections in the area.

For more information about the Art in Odum initiative, please contact Deborah S. Davis, certified archivist, director of VSU Archives and Special Collections, and chairwoman of the Library Art Committee, at (229) 259-7756 or dsdavis@valdosta.edu.

NOTE: The Office of Communications plans to release more information about the Dodd Collection, Ross Rosenberg Collection, Kessler Collection, and Amalia Amaki memorial piece in the coming days.