Artist creates paintings at Hoag Library of animals reading classics

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 February 2023 at 6:41 pm

‘It’s just magical’ – library director Betty Sue Miller

Photos by Tom Rivers: This painting shows three raccoons working on a concoction while following a recipe in the popular cooking book, Joy of Cooking. It is mounted on the end of shelf with books in the Home and Family section. The cooking raccoons are one of six new paintings at Hoag Library created by Albion native Stacey Kirby Steward.

ALBION – Walk into Hoag Library and there is an eye-catching painting of a fox reading a book, The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. It is mounted on the wall between two book shelves of popular new fiction books. The fox’s eyes look up from the page and make contact with the viewer.

Round the corner and there is another painting near the printer across from the tables of computers. That painting shows a skunk engrossed in Dale Carnegie’s self-improvement book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Stacey Kirby Steward, an Albion native who lives in Spencerport, created six paintings of animals engaged in reading. She thought of the books to pair with the animals, with some suggestions from former children’s librarian Theresa Gaylard.

A grant from the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) funded the project.

Hoag Library executive director Betty Sue Miller, left, and Stacey Kirby Steward hold her painting of a beaver building a dam. The beaver consults “Cathedral” by David Macaulay. In this critically acclaimed book, Macaulay uses pen and ink drawings to show the construction of a great medieval cathedral, the imaginary Cathedral of Chutreaux.

Kirby Steward shows a beaver making an impressive dam with gothic arches. This painting is now mounted over the sink in the children’s library room.

A fox reads The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. This painting is the favorite for Betty Sue Miller, the library director. She likes the fox’s eyes.

Betty Sue Miller, the library director, said the paintings enliven the library, filling spots where you don’t expect to see artwork. They are very pleasant surprises, she said.

“It’s just magical,” Miller said. “Each book fits with the animal.”

Kirby Steward also created a 24-foot-long mural in the main meeting room of swans in flight over a farm field and the Erie Canal, with the Gaines basin Road canal bridge below.

She also design a stained-glass window for the library with a swan. That was a gift from Bill Lattin for when the library opened in July 2012.

Lattin assisted Kirby Steward in installing the paintings today. They were added to walls and book shelves. They are in unusual shapes, especially a 10-inch by 36-inch painting of a bald eagle in a pine tree, reading Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. That painting is next to the biographies near the computer lab.

A skunk seeks self-improvement and reads Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Kirby Steward said she enjoyed thinking of the scenes in the paintings, and how they could be used to add to the library experience at the Hoag.

She received very positive feedback from library users today while she and Lattin mounted them.

She likes that they are located in unexpected places.

“You walk around the corner and you’re surprised,” she said.

There will be a public reception in the near future to celebrate the new paintings. Kirby Steward and Miller also said more could be added in the future showing other animals reading books.

This painting of cardinal rebuilding a nest is at the end of one of the book shelves. It quotes lines from “Surviving” by Maya Angelou.

Where the winds of disappointment

dash my dream house to the ground

and anger, octopus-like wraps its tentacles around my soul

I just stop myself. I stop in my tracks

and look for one thing that can

help me.

A bald eagle reads the autobiography of Frederick Douglass. This painting is 10 inches by 36 inches and is by a shelf in the biography section.

Bill Lattin helped Kirby Steward install the paintings. Lattin said the library features many art pieces. Lattin, a former art teacher at Albion, is pleased to see the library partner with Kirby Steward for one-of-kind art.

Miller said she will submit the project to the American Library Association to highlight for other libraries.

“No other library has this this,” she said. “No other library has someone like Stacey.”