Arts-Library

Library art enlightens and invigorates

by Mary Isca Pirkola

photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

You cant help but notice the abundance of art as you visit the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons. Nearly 350 works grace the public areas on five levels.

The northeast entrance near the Cook Carillon Tower greets patrons with an impressive bronze casting, Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing) Figure No. 8, by Frederick Hart. The larger-than-life-sized male figure emerging from a cloud is from Harts Creation Sculptures, which won the 1971 international competition to adorn the Washington National Cathedral. The artist once said that art must be a part of life and must exist in the domain of the common man.


Korean artist Cheonae Kim painted the 100 graphic works running up a stairwell wall.

Henry Matthews, director of Galleries and Collections, agreed. Grand Valley has a longstanding tradition of supporting the arts, he said.

Matthews chaired the Mary Idema Pew Library Arts Advisory Committee, a group of faculty and staff members from University Libraries, Facilities and the Office of the President. As with every Grand Valley building when selecting artwork, we take into account the function and activity within it, he said.

Many of the works are gifts from collectors or the artists, including alumni, students, faculty and staff members. Others were selected from Grand Valleys permanent collection. In addition to sculptures, there are hundreds of paintings, prints, photographs and a dozen display cabinets of three-dimensional works in a variety of medium.

Three graphic works by Korean artist Cheonae Kim, who works in Chicago, are found throughout the building. Among them is a series of 30-by-30-inch canvases that were painted one each day over 100 days. They run more than 50 feet on the open stairwell wall from the Atrium level to the fourth floor. Kim said her works are designed to lift the human spirit.

West Michigan artists are well represented throughout the library and include diverse works by Stephen Duren, Reb Roberts, Elaine Dalcher, Jeff Condon, alumnus Michael Pfleghaar and others, and many faculty members. The Connector from the Kirkhof Center to the library is lined with more eclectic works, including some by Grand Valley students from the Department of Art and Design and the School of Communications. A colorful print by alumna Jane E. Ly, is rather reminiscent. Zumberge Fourth Floor depicts bookshelves, a comfy reading chair, and an expanse of windows reflecting the interior area. Matthews said the artist understood and captured the importance of art as part of an attractive learning environment.

Lee Van Orsdel, University Libraries dean, said the buildings artwork was chosen with purpose.

The Mary Idema Pew Library is a reflection of the intellectual, creative, and altruistic nature of our university, Van Orsdel said. The artwork we chose for the building celebrates not only those characteristics, but also the rich diversity of cultures within our university community.