When libraries grow tight on space, worn books are usually thrown out or given away. At the Eastham Public Library, they metamorphose into art.
The fifth annual Repurposed Book Art Contest, skipped last year because of the pandemic, marks a revived collaboration among the library, Eastham schools, and the town’s artistic community. The 115 entries remain on display through the end of February, also known as “love your library month,” said Outreach Librarian Marianne Sinopoli.
Nauset Regional High School junior Juniper O’Campbell spent nearly a month carefully styling pages of Shakespeare onto cardboard to make a plunged, caged dress, decorated with origami flowers and splashed with bright watercolors.
“I wanted the dress to be fantastical, like something a character in fiction or a video game would wear,” said O’Campbell during the exhibit’s opening reception on Feb. 10. “That’s why it’s called Off the Page.”
O’Campbell was the grand-prize winner in the contest’s fashion design division. In partnership with art classes offered at the high school, students competed in three categories: fashion design, art metals, and sculpture.
NRHS senior Eric Zou received an honorable mention for his metalwork, a picture of a Chinese scholar cut from an old book and soldered onto a malleated scroll. The work represents “what I do on a daily basis, taking every experience and learning something new from it,” he writes in the description. Engraved on the back of the scroll is the Chinese word 智慧, meaning wisdom.
Nauset Regional Middle School students competed with an array of sculptures, including eighth-grader Delaney Kavanaugh’s tall Tree of Life. Kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Eastham Elementary School crafted two-dimensional posters of books cut and glued into portraits of dogs and cats.
There were three sculptures submitted in the adult division, including David Martin’s Pages From a Plague: The Masque of Red Death in Our Time, a wooden box of historical figures in masks surrounded by burnt book pages, and NRHS art teacher Ginny Ogden’s colorful Birds in Love, featuring pictures from books about birds local to Cape Cod. “It’s fun to have the students see it’s something I enjoy, too,” Ogden said.
Eastham Art Committee member Brendan Mruk and chair Willow Shire were the judges. Pieces were graded according to theme, balance, stability, color, and the narrative conveyed in the work’s description. For each submission, Shire detailed her observations and encouraged students to continue to create.
“The youth are educating the adults,” she said. “As adults run around in our busy lives, we ignore a lot. These kids are not ignoring it.”
NRHS sophomores Azalea Rushby and Arielli Lemos spent four months working with old medical journals, popsicle sticks, and a book of Victorian house blueprints to create their sculpture, Suffering Words, replicating an “insane asylum” where mentally ill people who sought help were mistreated.
The house “is overfilling with pain, and the things these people wish they could have said to the doctors, and the people that brought them there,” Lemos said. She hopes her work can provide historical context for contemporary mistrust of the mental health system.
NRHS sophomores Mary Keyes and Mady Enos cut rows of steps into their sculpture Europe Aroused, which they topped with pictures of vintage buildings and glued faces. The work, the grand-prize winner in the sculpture division, is a “reimagining of the agony that plagued the streets of Europe in the 16th century,” according to the description.
Fifth-grade students at Eastham Elementary School made houses out of their books. Riely May Anderson says there isn’t much of a story behind her artwork, titled The House Secret, but what’s important is “it makes people feel at home.” Finley Simpson’s The Club House features a top floor where there is “a fruit bowl for everyone.” Down below are small cat houses, inspired by her own cat, Zipper, and decorated with red hearts. The message is “to love cats,” she said.
Blaise Donoho’s Chaos came together when “thinking of something crazy to make with a bunch of random stuff.” The finished piece is an avant-garde collection of used duct tape rolls, bottle caps, wire, popsicle sticks, scraps of paper, and plastic golden stars he found.
The idea for a book art contest came about as the library was undergoing a renovation in 2016 and Circulation Supervisor Freya Hemley was looking for ideas to recycle volumes no longer on display. With the help of Sinopoli, the books were donated to the schools. Friends of the Eastham Library offered to fund the project. As more teachers joined in, Hemley said the contest quickly “took on a life of its own.”