Lawrence Public Library, local artist challenge book bans through art installation

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The Lawrence library has partnered with a local artist to stand against books being banned for content, such as diversity, equity, inclusion and LGBTQ+ stories.

The Lawrence Public Library Friends & Foundation has announced the second installment of its “Library Landscapes,” a poster series that “captures the magic of Lawrence Public Library through the lens of beloved local artists,” according to a news release. 

For the installment, Lawrence artist Joelle Ford created “Unfurled,” a piece of art commentating on information censorship through book bans. Ford said including the covers of 76 banned or challenged books in the piece was challenging but resulted in something she hopes viewers enjoy and glean from.

“I found that they interacted better and more colorfully as smaller triangular pieces, while diagonal stripes added interest,” Ford said in the release. “The ‘Xs’ and cross patterns throughout the piece reminded me of bans as well. The result is a giant ‘Easter Egg’ of a banned book scavenger hunt that provides an extra hidden layer, giving viewers something new to discover each time they return for another look. The clues are there!”

The piece depicts an upside-down American flag, which is meant to symbolize “the state of distress in America’s intellectual freedom,” according to the release. It resembles a quilt, which aligns with the idea that different stories define the nation’s identity. 

Lawrence artist Joelle Ford holds “Unfurled,” a piece of art commentating on information censorship through book bans. (Lawrence Public Library / Courtesy photo)

It also aims to encourage open-mindedness, challenging viewers to question which stories and experiences are amplified and which are suppressed.

“The Lawrence Public Library Friends & Foundation is ecstatic that Joelle shared her collaging skills for this special installment of ‘Library Landscapes,’” according to the release. “Banned books was the perfect theme to focus on as Banned Books Week happens to fall during the first week of October. Such a prevalent topic paired with Joelle’s talent made for an amazing artwork that we can’t wait to share with the Lawrence community.”

High-quality copies of Ford’s original library artwork are available for sale as collectible posters at LPLFF.org, and all proceeds go to the library. A limited number of the reproduced pieces signed by Ford are also available. 

Additionally, the news release credited Colette and Ron Gaches for helping to fund the project as well as Melissa Hoffman, Susan Marshall and Eliza Hale for supplementing the library’s collection of banned books.

Visit LPLFF.org to learn more.

Ford signs prints of “Unfurled.” (Lawrence Public Library / Courtesy photo)
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