TIPTON – People heading into the Tipton County Public Library have been greeted by a unique visitor over the last month: A nearly 6-foot-tall Native American standing proudly at attention with a spear in hand.
Of course he isn’t real, but he looks like he just might be thanks to the detailed sculpting work of artist Hollis Williford. The life-sized Native American bronze sculpture is one of the last pieces Williford completed before he passed away in 2007.
“He’s a little startling at night,” said Kendra Hummel, the library’s adult programming director, with a laugh.
The piece is just one of 26 different bronze sculptures displayed throughout the library depicting Native American culture. Some are life sized, some are only 10-inches tall, some capture dramatic motion, others depict vivid feelings of sorrow or joy.
The sculpture exhibit is part of a push to make the library the cultural center of Tipton, Hummel said, and a way to bring art to the people rather than people traveling to a museum.
“It’s been well received. All our patrons really love it,” she said. “It gives a different vibe to the library. It makes it more interactive and more alive. You never know what you’re going to walk in and see.”
Hummel noted the library also currently has a quilt exhibit, offers water-painting classes and displays students’ art works throughout the year.
The Native American display is the second exhibit in two years put on by the library, which gets the art from a program called Sculptureworks. The program collects artists’ works and coordinates exhibits with libraries.
The Tipton exhibit displays the sculptures of Williford and Paul Oestreicher, artists who both lived with Native American tribes and try to preserve their culture and history.
The sculptures are inconspicuously spread throughout the library. Some sit on reference desks, coffee tables or book shelves. A small bronze rabbit peaks out behind some books in the children’s area.
A wolf sculpture sits right above a computer and looks like it’s ready to pounce on a computer mouse. The work is aptly called “Mousing Wolf.”
Each piece has a small plaque discussing what the sculpture portrays.
“Everybody enjoys them,” Hummel said. “People are like ‘Oh my gosh, you got new ones in!’ They grab a flyer and walk around and check them out.”
Hummel said the exhibit has made the library a trend-setter for other small libraries looking to include art work at their facilities.
She said libraries all around the state and even as far away as Illinois and Michigan have called, asking how they can have exhibits like the one in Tipton.
But the Native American exhibit wasn’t just randomly chosen, Hummel said. She said the library chose the display specifically to coincide with the annual Tecumseh Lodge Pow Wow put on at the Tipton County Fairgrounds every August.
Donna Wiand, assistant children’s librarian, said the exhibit is an especially good way to let kids get a first-hand look at unique art work. She said one elementary class even used the sculptures in an assignment they had to do for school.
“It exposes kids to something they probably haven’t seen before,” she said. “If they’ve never gone to a museum, it’s a type of art they’re not familiar with. Anything that expands their world is a good thing, I think.”
The exhibit will be at the library through Nov. 30 and can be seen during normal hours.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at email@example.com.