Public Art

Gifts of A Lifetime
Words Over Water
Grus Pacifica

Gifts of a lifetime

Gift of Books

Understanding the need for a community library, the Pasadena Library and Village Improvement society built Pasadena's first Library building on February 26, 1884 near Raymond Street on Colorado. At the opening of the Library, there were 329 volumes, mostly donated by residents. In 1886 the Library moved temporarily to 50 West Dayton Street - where the "Library Hall Lofts," a commercial building designed by Barry Berkus, was built during 2001-2002.

Library Hall

The name of this building refers to the fact that the Pasadena Public Library was located at this address from 1886 to 1890. New buildings of this scale in Pasadena require a "percent-for-art public art" component. After receiving the commission in December 1999, I proposed to make a work of art to celebrate the gifts from the community that established the library in 1884. I also planned for my project, "Gifts of a Lifetime," to have a double meaning.

Gifts of a Lifetime

Gift of Life

The art work consists of four panels, each six feet high and twelve feet wide with two rows of over-size aluminum powder-coated "book forms" nested on their respective shelves. In total, there are 329 of these books. In addition, I designed these books to read as an information chart: the books not only reference the origin of the library, but their colors also serve as a graphic display of population statistics.

Color as Number

Linking numerical values to each book color, I established a chart that reveals a range of facts and alarming projections about population. Using a simple but arbitrary method, I assigned a color to each numerical position (i.e., 1, 10, 100, etc.) Each color therefore represents a certain number of human beings at a given time and/or place.

The Numbers

The population statistics read as follows:

Fabrication of Artwork

"Gifts of a Lifetime" was fabricated at the University of California, Santa Barbara during the Summer and Fall 2001 at the Physics Machine Shop, under the direction of Rudi Stuber and Jeff Dutter. Mark Sheckherd was the lead fabricator, with assistance from John Graham, Aaron Romine, and Joel Sherman. Powder coating by Chuck Brierton and Daniel Brierton of CIP Powder Coating, Buellton, CA. Additional consultation and technical assistence from Jonathan Cecil, Jane Mulfinger, and Michael Wrocklage. Design assistance, critical input, and overall support from Sandra Liddell Reese. Photographed by Barry Berkus Design Studio.

Harry Reese. August 2003

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