Spreading Art through Little Free Libraries

By Megan Hanson

The City of Brantford commissioned 10 local artists to design 10 Little Free Libraries, placed in public spaces around the city.

When you think of Little Free Libraries, your first thought probably goes to sharing books, or maybe to meeting neighbors. But Little Free Libraries are more than just quaint little boxes that people put up in their front yards; cities around the country are putting them up 5, 10 or 20 at a time to serve a variety of purposes.

West Hollywood offers $600 Little Free Library grants for residents who want to start book exchanges, and in Litchfield Hills, CT, there are now over 16 Little Libraries sharing everything from books to toiletries to Legos.

The city of Brantford in Ontario, Canada took a different approach: using Little Free Libraries to encourage an appreciation of public art.

“Our hope is that these Little Free Libraries will inspire the love of reading, provide opportunities to learn and meet someone new, and encourage appreciation for public art in Brantford. These humble book exchanges will help to enhance our neighbourhoods, and will provide our community with a space to express what is important to them,” said Sara Munroe, Arts and Culture Coordinator for the City of Brantford.

The project started with an email from Layne Beckner Grime, a photographer and resident of Brantford who wanted to see more art in the community. The Brant Skills Center came on board after successfully applying for a grant from the City of Brantford Grants Program. They received some additional funds from the city’s public art reserve fund, as well.

Next, the Brant Skills Center staff put out a call for local artists to submit proposals for Little Free Library designs; they chose 10 winners, each of whom would get to decorate one Library. A local business donated materials, while a local contractor donated his time and skills to build the Libraries.

The City of Brantford Public Art Subcommittee chose public locations where each of the Libraries would be installed. The city has five wards, so they aimed to put two Libraries in each ward.

The result? According to Munroe, “So much positivity! We had a great crowd out when we unveiled them as part of our Culture Days celebration, and so far we’ve had lots of inquiries about how others can start their own Little Free Libraries on their own properties. All of the books were donated by staff and community members, and they’re being used regularly!”

See all 10 of the beautiful, artist-designed Libraries in the slideshow below. Photos were taken by Jono & Lanie Photo + Film in Brantford.

River Geese Little Free Library
“The Grand River is the life blood that flows through Brantford. My art depicts the animals, the water, and the vegetation that surrounds it.” – Aliki Mikulich
Brantford Map Little Free Library
“I decided to design what I imagine the first recorded map of Brantford would have looked like. The map details the Grand River and its surrounding area, including Six Nations.” – Alex Mikulich
Grand River Little Free Library
“My goal with [my Little Free Library was] to depict the flora and fauna of the Grand River in a whimsical, illustrative style to draw a connection between the Grand River and the Little Free Library itself.” – Lizzie Mikulich
Imagination Little Free Library
“This Little Free Library is inspired by the love of reading and how books open so many doors to our imagination and into the lives of other people.” – Elizabeth Gosse
Lorne Park Little Free Library
“Lorne Park is one of Brantford’s most notable horticultural parks. I thought this would be an excellent choice to showcase the parks and gardens of the ‘Best Bloomin’ City.'” – Aleah Durham
Alexander Graham Bell Little Free Library
“Alexander Graham Bell and his invention of the telephone is an important part of Brantford and all of Canada’s history … I thought it very fitting to illustrate his homestead.” – Cassandra Chambers
Discover Little Free Library
“Easy access to books enriches lives, opening new worlds to the imagination, inspiring creative adventures, and introducing a range of perspectives and world views… I want my [Little Free Library] to grab attention!” – Arlene Laskey
Shared Land Little Free Library
“[I chose] to use a combination of photographs and paintings of the Grand to cover my Little Free Library, as a way of exploring this idea of reconciliation through the shared appreciation of our land.” – Christa Potter
Neighborhood Crest Little Free Library
This Little Free Library is covered with 15 original Brantford neighbourhood crests that the artist designed.
Stone Mosaic Library
“My idea for my Little Free Library was simple: pure, simple Canadian symbolism – red maple leaves on a stone background.” – Heather Vollans

From public libraries to schools, from police departments to service groups, groups of all shapes are sizes are using Little Free Libraries to benefit their communities. Learn how to start a Little Free Library today.

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