Watercolor given to honor top friend
of Tampa-Hillsborough library system

by Esther Hammer
Tribune correspondent
South Tampa News & Tribune
April 22, 2009

   Recently a new painting was added to the permanent collection of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.
   "Springs are Low, Dundee Creek," a watercolor on Yupo paper by local artist Taylor Ikin, was presented by The Friends of the Library to the Outstanding Friend of the Year recipient, John D. Mullen.  A Tampa lawyer, Mullen has been a board member and officer of the Friends for 12 years, and has spent a lot of time in recent months ironing out legal aspects of the group's reorganization.
   It may seem like a non-event to the public, but the public is the primary recipient of this gift and the collection it joins.
   "Most people don't realize that the library has a wonderful art collection," said Margaret Rials, coordinator of the Friends.
   In fact, the library has two collections of art, most of which are in the John F. Germany Library downtown, said Andrew Breidenbaugh, chief librarian.  "One is the library's permanent collection, which has been growing since the library first opened in 1917," he said.  "The other is purchases and gifts of The Friends of the Library.  They've been collecting over the past 10 to 15 years."
   Together the library and the Friends have accumulated 142 pieces of original art.  It is all by Florida artists, and most of it is view-for-free in the county's libraries and online.  The collections are remarkable in the selection of artists and the period of time covered, Breidenbaugh said.
   "We're not just preserving the local literary heritage; we're also preserving the community's artistic heritage," Breidenbaugh said.  "When the library started collecting art years ago, efforts were made to purchase art by local or Florida artists.  And the Friends have continued that through their Gasparilla purchase awards."
   Several of those purchase awards can be seen in the John F. Germany Library.  This year's purchase, "Florida Bird Series II," by Ybor artist John Costin, is on display in the first floor entrance.  A 2006 purchase piece, "Habitat," a copper-and-brass sculpture by Loyd and Lee Jones, sits on the piano in the second floor east building.  Ikin's painting will hang in the back of the first floor on the landing leading outside.
   A separate assortment of 130 pieces of art can be found in the SouthShore Regional Library.  They were collected and/or created by the late John Crawford.
   "We have a working art studio at that location and Mr. Crawford was interested in art education, and so he donated his entire collection," Breidenbaugh said.
   Further evidence of the library's commitment to art is the rotating exhibitions of works by local artists in many branch libraries and in the downtown library's Kotler Art Gallery, where Carlos Erazo is exhibiting his acrylic paintings through April 29.  Frank Bolock will then occupy the space through June.
   Except for the SouthShore paintings, the library's entire portfolio of acquisitions has been digitized.  To see the full collection, go to hcplc.org and click "catalog."  Once there, select "Quick Search" and type in "John Germany Art Collection" in the search space.  A list appears, and when you click on a title, a page of information about that piece of art appears.  Scroll down and click "Electronics Resource" to see the piece of art.
   For more information about the library's art, contact Breidenbaugh at (813) 273-3776.

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