Library makeover: New art revitalizes frequented space


Afton Weaver

Gina Osterloh’s “Dots Front Misfire” and Ebony Patterson’s “Untitled (Among the weeds, plants, and peacock feathers)” are juxtaposed on the third floor.

Renny Acheson, A&E Editor

Since its construction in 1956, Penrose Library has served as a setting for intellectual, artistic and personal exploration in the Walla Walla community. Among windows, shelves and cubicles, art pieces of a variety of mediums illuminate the spaces and create an interactive visual experience for viewers. 

This semester, Penrose is seeing the installation of numerous new works and the rearrangement of existing pieces. Some newly-installed works come from exhibitions in the Sheehan Gallery while others come from senior art majors. Multiple new pieces were also acquired through the Gaiser Art Endowment. Other works were donations. 

Kynde Kiefel, the exhibitions and collections manager for the Sheehan Gallery, explains how art on campus is curated to interact with different spaces.

Afton Weaver
Jacob Hashimoto’s “When Nothing ends, Nothing Remains” hangs in the library’s atrium.

“Our goal is always to have the collection as visible and useful as possible, and the library is such a great space for that, for the study of the work as well as the study of other things,” Kiefel said. 

When developing a plan for the installation of the new pieces, Kiefel, along with Director of the Sheehan Gallery Daniel Forbes, paid close attention to the dynamic between the space and the properties of the art. 

On the newly-acquired works by Ebony Patterson and Gina Osterloah, hanging together on the wall by the balcony on the third floor, Forbes said, “Visually, those pieces have a really beautiful relationship in terms of pattern and color to the Jacob Hashimoto installation that hangs there in the atrium.”

Kiefel and Forbes work to develop a compelling relationship between all elements of the location, including book aesthetics, subject matter and other works of art. They intend on new and previous pieces to be used as visual texts for art history and visual culture studies courses. 

Sophomore library employee Shannon Husband recalls a time in which she noticed a class interact with the Hashimoto installation.

“They just laid on the floor right here and they were just looking up at it,” she said. 

In terms of other educational opportunities, Access Services Manager Jen Pope said in an email to The Wire, “I especially hope that the community will set up visits for the schools in the area — through the proper channels of course — so their students can be introduced to some fantastic pieces at an early age.”

Afton Weaver
An abstract painting hangs in the stairwell between the second and third floor of Penrose Library.

Whether library visitors notice the pieces or not, they provide symbolic meaning as well.

Forbes points to the Shepherd Fairey series hanging on the third floor as one example of this kind of symbolism.

“We put those prints—they’re beautiful pictures of women of color—to serve as a conversation back to the wall of the presidents,” Forbes said. 

With a wide range of artists’ work being installed or rearranged, the art in Penrose Library serves as a celebration of diversity in creation. 

“We do hope that visitors to campus and students here and anybody that occupies these spaces sees it as a living, breathing thing that can be interacted with and thought about,” Kiefel said. “I would hope that these pieces are visual food, sustenance for people, whether they’re calming or inspiring or possibly slightly agitating.” 

Both the old and new art present thrilling opportunities for visitors to engage with the spaces, urging students to take a moment to appreciate what is in Penrose nowadays.