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Art, By The Books

Featured Photo from Art, By The Books

Where can you find some of the most fun and fulfilling (and free!) art activities in Seminole County? Look no further than your local library.

Walk into any Seminole County library branch, and you’ll see the expected. Avid readers stroll through aisles, browsing shelves filled with books. Students and adults sit at computer stations, working on school assignments, checking email, and searching for jobs. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice something you might not expect people exploring their artistic sides.

Fans of fiber art are busy knitting, crocheting, and quilting at the libraries. Grown-ups come in and let their stress melt away by coloring intricate pictures. Youths learn about the art of printmaking and how to turn obsolete technology into artwork.

All five branches of the Seminole County Public Library System offer free, hands-on arts and crafts programming for a variety of ages. The main library branch is in Casselberry, and the others are in Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood/Wekiva, and Oviedo.

Arts programming is a good fit because libraries are all about lifelong learning, says Ginny Howerton, public services manager for the county library system.

“One of our missions is to provide a sense of community, to have a community space where people can come and gather and work with their hands and learn something new,” Ginny says. “So it’s not just reading a book to learn. It’s actually doing and learning.”

Arts programming at libraries often falls under the umbrella of “maker programs,” which are all the rage, according to Ginny.

“Maker programs are anything you can do with your hands to create,” she says. “These programs are very hot for all age levels in libraries across the country, and especially for families. It’s a pushback from having so much intense concentration on the electronic screen all the time. You’re so solo with that.”

Maker programs allow participants to engage in a tactile activity, learn a new skill, and interact with other people. In Seminole County, recent programs for families have included knitting by using your arms instead of needles and sculpting roses out of fondant. Fiber arts have a strong following at four of the county’s library branches, which offer groups for those who like to knit, crochet, and quilt in a social setting.

“It’s a creative outlet,” says Ginny. “Everybody brings whatever beautiful thing they’re working on. Then they sit together, share thoughts and ideas, and have informal lessons with each other.”

Another arts program, Color Me Calm, has proven to be such a hit that it is offered at all the branches. It is an activity that givesadults the opportunity to relive the simple childhood experience of coloring. Color Me Calm is most popular at the Central Branch in Casselberry, says Kathi Efland, senior librarian for adult services for the county library system.

Ashley Payan Hanna, an adult services librarian, runs the program at the Casselberry branch. To set a stress-free, Zen-like mood, Ashley lights scented candles and plays soothing classical music. Attendees can choose from a wide selection of Prismacolor colored pencils and highly detailed coloring sheets.

“At the end of the session, we go around the room and share our masterpieces,” Ashley says.

The adult coloring book craze exploded last year and is still going strong. Color Me Calm fans generally fall into two camps, according to Kathi.

“Some attendees are really interested in the Zen and meditative part of it, and others are clearly looking to meet new friends and to socialize,” Kathi says. “So all the librarians have worked out a way to let the meditative ones color on one side of the room, and the chatty ones color on the other side.”

Another meditative art program Zentangle is being offered for adults and teens this summer. The art form is described as a way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns, called tangles. Zentangle practitioners are known as tanglers.

“We had the sessions last summer, and people loved them,” Kathi says. “It’s been so fun to do.”

Teens and adults aren’t the only ones getting crafty, though. Most of the story-time programs for children incorporate craft projects, as well as puppetry, songs, and science experiments, Kathi says.

Another popular activity is the Art Blast program that will run three times a week through July 22 at the Casselberry branch. Children and their families are welcome to drop by to create art in the gallery room, which is stocked with plenty of art supplies to spark the imagination. Children receive a digital timer and are allotted 45 minutes to create artwork, which they can take home or leave behind to be displayed.

Offering arts and crafts at local libraries helps fill a void for youths who don’t have many opportunities to create art at school.

“We’re not a Crealde School of Art, obviously,” adds Ginny, referring to the well-known arts organization in Winter Park, “but we are providing something for families.”

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