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Works of Art at Mead Library
Mead Public Library is home to an Art*o*mat™, a recycled cigarette vending machine which sells original works of art for $5 a pull. The Mead Art*o*mat was the third in Wisconsin and is one of just a handful located in a library (most are in stores or museums).
Each Art*o*mat is unique. Mead’s was made by National, a well-known vending machine manufacturer, during the 1950s. It was recovered from a third-generation vending company business located in eastern North Carolina and was most likely used in a bar.It is located on the first floor of Mead Library, near the elevators. The machine will accepts a $5 bill and in return, the buyer will get a small original artwork packaged or created to be the size of a package of cigarettes. The proceeds are shared by the artist, the Friends of Mead Public Library, and Art*o*mat’s creator. The Kohler Foundation helped to fund expenses associated with Art*o*mat installation.
The artworks available through Art*o*mat come from more than 400 artists and 10 countries. Many are small paintings on a block of wood, but they also include such things as a ring, toy robot, stained glass, handmade paper, or a puzzle. Each package also identifies and gives contact information for the artist.
“Exposure is a key point” for the artists, said Art*o*mat creator Clark Whittington. Many are very loyal to the concept of affordable and accessible art. Some have had commissions or sold work based on their Art*o*mat participation, he said.
Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat, is based on the concept of taking art and “repackaging” it to make it part of our daily lives.
When A.J. Baum died in 1952, he left to Mead Public Library a collection of his drawings, many of which appeared in The Sheboygan Press in 1945. The drawings illustrated a series of articles by Gustav Buchen featuring interesting and historic sites in Sheboygan County. The articles and sketches were among the most popular items ever published in The Press and are now available online.
A. J. Baum was a nationally known furniture designer. Born in 1875, he studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy and attended the Art Students’ League in New York. He worked as a portrait painter and muralist before entering the industrial design field. He moved to Sheboygan in 1924 to join the Phoenix Chair Co. In 1932 he became a designer for the American Chair Co. He also designed costumes and settings for two productions of the Community Players. He was married to Katherine O’Connell. They had two children, John V. and Madge Therese.
The clock tower commissioned by the Stefanie H. Weill Charitable Fund, Inc., is the work of Sheboygan artist Sharron Quasius, in honor of Stefanie Weill, her husband John, and her brother Otto Byk. The clock tower is on the Weill/Byk Public Library Terrace, just to the north of the library entrance. A community fund established to support capital expenditures connected to art, music, and education in Sheboygan County, the Stefanie H. Weill Charitable Fund, Inc., was a major donor to the Mead Public Library Centennial Building Project.
The fund was created in 1969 by Stefanie Weill in memory of her husband John L. Weill, who died in 1967. After her husband’s death, Stefanie Weill remained active in the Sheboygan community. In the early 1980s, her brother, Otto Byk, moved to Sheboygan from New York. He shared his sister’s great interest in art and music and he also was a frequent visitor to Mead Library. After Stefanie Weill’s death in 1985, and her brother’s death in 1990, additions were made to the fund she created.
In recognition of the fund’s contribution, the public terrace adjacent to the east and north sides of the building was named the Weill/Byk Public Library Terrace.
The tower is approximately 25 feet high with a 4-by-16-foot vertical cast brass relief on each of the four sides. Above each panel is a lighted clock face. The structure was designed by Erik Jensen, of LJM Architects, in the same style as the library. The project was supported by Arts/Industry, a program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
The clock tower is the result of 18 months of work by the artist. After Quasius researched and then chose images for the four panels, she began the process of sculpting each of the 16 panels in an oil-based clay called plasticine. Those 4-by-4 foot panels were moved to the Kohler Co. Foundry where Quasius spent nine weeks while she made molds from sand and resin with the assistance of workers there. Each mold was subsequently used to produce a brass casting using 1,000 pounds of molten brass at a temperature of 1,860 degrees. Each panel weighs about 700 pounds. Work on the panels was completed in Quasius’ studio where she ground and buffed each one and applied a patina.
Sharron Quasius is a Sheboygan native and a graduate of North High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Oklahoma. She lived and worked in New York City during the 1980s and was known for her large sewn canvas recreations of famous paintings. Quasius, who lives in Sheboygan, now works in cast metals and has other commissions and works in progress. Her artwork has been purchased by museums and private collectors.
A mural located on the landing between the first and second floors celebrates the Commedia dell‘Arte, a form of improvisational comedy that flourished in 16th and 17th century Italy. The mural offers a view of Piazza San Marco in Venice with the Commedia dell‘Arte performing on the stage. It was created, executed, and donated to Mead Public Library by Mollie Morning Star.
In 2010, Morning Star was commissioned by the Mead Public Library Board to create an extension of the mural.
Morning Star, the muralist, relocated here from North Carolina in 2002. She learned to paint as a child, working with her stepmother Sharon McGinley-Nally, an accomplished illustrator/artist. She attended the Barnestone Academy of Art in Pennsylvania and also trained with a European Master Craftsman. Her work is featured in exclusive homes and businesses across America and the Bahamas. In 1999 she worked at Universal Studios Park in Florida recreating 15 ancient Greek murals for the attraction, “Poseidon's Fury.”
The Commedia dell‘Arte theme was chosen by Morning Star as a celebration of the arts: painting, music, literature and theater. “It’s a wonderful theme for the Mead Library. While it is classical in design and style, it has an air of whimsy that makes it appealing to all ages.”
In 2012 and 2013, the Mead Public Library Foundation received 43 paintings by Dr. James D. Michael, gifts from his estate by his wife, Betsy Jones Michael. James Michael died on November 10, 2011 at the age of 83.
Twenty-two paintings were included in the 2012 exhibit, “Celebration of Life, Heritage Paintings by James Michael.” They represent some of his personal favorites from 30-plus years of painting. They showcase his evolving vision from traditional historical landscape watercolors to a stronger personal technique, similar to the richness of oil paintings.
The ten paintings in the 2013 gift were designated by the donor to honor retired Library Director Sharon Winkle. Two other paintings included in the first floor exhibit had been given to Mead Public Library previously: depictions of the John Michael Kohler home from an anonymous donor; and of the steamer Sheboygan, purchased by the Friends of Mead Public Library with donations from community members.
Eleven paintings, included in the 2012 gift from the estate, hang in staff areas of the library building, at the request of the donor. These may be viewed by prior arrangement with the library’s Administrative Services staff.
After 29 years as a physician in the Internal Medicine Department at the Sheboygan Clinic, James Michael retired to paint full time and ultimately to teach watercolor painting at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Plymouth Arts Center, and the Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.
He exhibited locally and nationally, and became a signature member of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society (WWS), the Transparent Watercolor Society of America (TWSA), the National Watercolor Society (NWS), and the American Watercolor Society (AWS) and has been the recipient of numerous awards. More than a thousand of his paintings hang in private and corporate collections, and many were donated to local charity benefit auctions including fund-raising events sponsored by the Friends of Mead Public Library.
James and Betsy Michael have had a long history of support for Mead Public Library and are charter members of the Mead Public Library Foundation’s Renaissance Society, and for that, the Sheboygan community is grateful.
Two sculptures from Woodlot Gallery are on display outside of Mead Public Library. One was purchased with funds donated to the library by the ACUITY Charitable Foundation, part of its “ACUITY in the Arts” initiative.“Eagle,” designed by Narendra Patel for fabrication in steel, stands outside the southeast corner of the library building, at the corner of 8th St. and New York Ave. Narendra Patel, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is known for his sculpture and the innovative technique of chemically changing color on metal.
A second sculpture, near the southwest corner of the building, is called "Helping Hands." The work is by Milwaukee artist/sculptor Nancy Metz White. It is brightly colored and made of steel dies that were used to cut leather at a glove factory, epoxied. The purchase was made possible by the generous gifts of Dr. Graf, the Hazel Hansen Estate, the Hugh & Ruth V. Ross Charitable Fund, Inc., and the Victor Seib Estate.
Quiet Study Room
The Quiet Study Room is furnished with eight original tables from the 1904 Sheboygan Public Library building (a Carnegie library), located on 7th Street. The two-armed library table lamps are reproductions of those used in 1904.The 32 Quiet Study Room chairs were donated by Sheboygan Lodge No. 11 F. & A.M. of Wisconsin. The chairs were made by the Phoenix Chair Company of Sheboygan. James H. Mead, for whom the library is named, was the first president of that company.
The Edgar Cameron murals, which have been installed in the Quiet Study Room, were restored with funding from the Arthur J. Olsen Foundation Ltd. Professional art conservator and Sheboygan native Tony Rajer, working with volunteers, completed the conservation project in 1996.
Josephine A. Rocca came to Mead Library in 1953 as a reference librarian and enjoyed a challenging career highlighted in 1969 when Miss Rocca was named Wisconsin Librarian of the Year. In 1979, she was promoted to assistant director, a position she held until her retirement in 1989. She continued to support Mead Library until her death in 1993 as an active member of both the Friends of Mead Public Library and the Mead Public Library Foundation, Inc.
Among her many hobbies, Miss Rocca enjoyed collecting bookmarks. She left her extensive collection to the Friends of Mead Public Library. Included in the Rocca collection, displayed on the second floor, are the distinctive and rare bookmarks known as Stevengraphs. Thomas Stevens, an inventor and manufacturer in Coventry, England, adapted his Jacquard loom to weave elaborate silk designs for bookmarks. From 1863 to 1912, his company produced bookmarks depicting religious themes, events from history, portraits, florals, and sentimental verses.
Gene Schuttey, of Sheboygan, gave to Mead Public Library items from his collection of decorative arts, including many paperweights and bronzes displayed on the library's second floor. Mr. Schuttey died on September 30, 2009.
Mr. Schuttey was born on January 15, 1924 and raised in Sheboygan and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. For many years, he maintained Aida Studio in Sheboygan where he photographed four generations of some area families. He had an interest in theater and was the company photographer for Milwaukee’s Fred Miller Theater and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater as well as the Sheboygan Arts Foundation and Sheboygan Community Players. His interest in the fine and decorative arts led him to many years of collecting, including the paperweights and bronzes he has given to Mead Public Library.
The collection of Sheboygan watercolor paintings by former Sheboygan resident Ruben Vega is exhibited in The Loft, on the third floor of the library. It was the gift of the Kohler Foundation, Inc. to Mead Public Library for the enjoyment of the public. The paintings are based on original postcard images of historic Sheboygan scenes.
Read about the works of art in the Henrietta A. Landwehr Children's Library Center.