Post Author
Alison Gowans
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Harper Folsom believes art should be accessible for anyone – and since libraries are all about access, her upcoming partnership with the library as an artist-in-residence this fall is a perfect fit. 

She’ll lead programs for all ages in the library throughout the fall and will have time in the library when people can come interact with her. 

“I’m not a fan of this idea that creative careers aren’t viable. I’ll feel like I’ve done my job if there’s a kid who feels like their creative ambitions are worthwhile,” she said. “The world would be a really sad, boring place if we didn’t have people making things and making things for each other.” 

Folsom graduated from Coe College in May with degrees in art and history. She’s hoping to pursue an MFA at the University of Iowa, but in the meantime is taking a gap year to work as an artist. 

“I love working with kids. I do some work with the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy and Threads Art Education,” she said.  

Programming librarian Meredith Crawford is organizing the pilot program with hopes to expand it in the future. The first major project will be a collaborative art project titled “Mirrors.” The idea is for Folsom to create a portrait of a person while they are creating a portrait of her. The two pieces will then be displayed side-by-side.  

“It’s the idea of – what do we do to represent human connection? How are we seen through different lenses?” Folsom said. 

Crawford had been hoping to start an artist-in-residence program, and Folsom’s work with paper making and book binding seemed like a good fit to pilot the program.  

“I really appreciate bringing in experts so patrons cannot just learn something but create something in turn,” Crawford said. “The scope and intent of Harper’s work is to provide access to art, and to let people experience art and see themselves as artists. It’s the perfect library partnership.  

For the residency, Folsom will lead three public programs each month this fall for people of different ages. She’ll also have time when she’s working on art in the library and will be available for people to talk with, work on art with, or participate in the “Mirrors” project. 

“The idea of doing both children’s programming and adult fine art programming floored me. I think art is important across the spectrum of ages and backgrounds,” Folsom said. “Fine art, art skills, art history – they should be very accessible … Art is absolutely for everybody. Everyone can pursue it.” 

Along with the “Mirrors” project, she’ll focus on papermaking, book binding, and collage during her residency. 

“Papermaking – that’s my love. I love to do all types of paper making. I love teaching it,” she said. “It’s kind of like drawing – you can take a lifetime to master it, but it’s also so easy to get started. Anyone can do it.” 

She uses recycled, pre-existing paper as the base material for her papermaking. 

“I’m a paper hoarder. I saved everything from preschool drawings to papers I wrote in college,” she said. “It’s been really cathartic to take those things, all this stuff I’ve accumulated, and transform them. I can repurpose them and make something new, give them a new function, as a book.” 

Her book covers also come from used materials – bits of wood and window shades she finds or upcycles from places like the ReStore. 

“A big theme in my work is repurposing and finding things that are discarded or don’t have a perceivable value and giving them one,” she said.  

She said, ultimately, she hopes the residency is a chance for conversations and connection.  

“Making art is just finding tangible ways to connect with people. I make art for the purpose of connecting with other people, of sharing with them,” she said. 

Once the pilot program concludes, the library will review the process with the hopes to have an ongoing artist in residence program with an application process for artists in the community. 

Artist-In-Residence Programs

Mirrors Project 

This is a drop-in opportunity to sit with Folsom and participate in her Mirrors project, which entails drawing portraits while in conversation. 

Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and 18 and Nov. 1 and 15, 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Ladd Library and 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library 

Paper Making 

Folsom will show participants how to repurpose, reuse and recycle paper to create new and interesting paper for creative endeavors. 

Sept. 17 at the Downtown Library; kids from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and teens from 1 to 2:30 p.m.; Sept. 23, 10 to 11:30 at Ladd Library for adults 

Book Binding for Teens and Adults 

Explore the art of book binding by seeing examples of Folsom’s work, learning about different techniques and using tools provided to create your own unique bound book.  

Oct. 8, 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Downtown Library, and Oct. 21, 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Ladd Library 

Portrait Drawing for Kids: Mirrors 

Draw in conversation with Folsom and explore the techniques for drawing portraits.  

Oct. 29, 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Downtown Library 

Early Learning Story Time 

Enjoy story time before a portrait drawing lesson with Folsom. Your portraits of Folsom will contribute to her long-range collaborative art project, Mirrors. 

Nov. 8, 10 to 11 a.m., at the Downtown Library 

Neighborhood Artist Exhibit Opening 

Join us for an afternoon of refreshments and conversation as we unveil the work our patrons have created over the course of our artist-in-residency program this fall. 

Nov. 19, 1 to 3 p.m., at Ladd Library