The Lawrence Public Library’s renovations are more than just skin deep. Along with the remodeling and reconstruction, the library also will get a new set of DNA.
The city is spending $75,000 on art for the renovated library, set to open next summer. Glass creations by Rock Cottage Glassworks artist Dierk Van Keppel from Merriam, Kan., and his partner John Shreve, a graduate student at Kansas University, will greet patrons as they enter the library.
The centerpiece — a 6-foot long, 4-foot tall sculpture inspired by human DNA —is meant to symbolize what all library users, regardless of background or language, have in common.
Van Keppel said the artists wanted to use script to convey meaning in the artwork, but they ultimately made it more abstract by choosing DNA— the language of the human body.
“There are more than 600 languages in the world,” Shreve said. “The way we look at it, DNA unifies all of us and distinguishes all as individuals.”
The $75,000 covers all the glass art, lighting to feature the art, metal for structural support and commissions for the artists, said Jenny Cook, a member of the art selection committee. Along with a large centerpiece, Van Keppel will create additional smaller art pieces featuring colored and clear glass together.
“The glass pieces will be something for people to experience throughout the library and use as a scavenger hunt to get to know the new library,” Cook said. “[The art will be] an interesting journey for those who move throughout the building.”
Although the committee went through 71 art submissions, Van Keppel’s entry stuck out because his proposal included the extra art around the library.
“A lot of other artists had just submitted one. I think we felt like we were getting more art for the amount of money that was being offered,” said Teen Services Librarian Karen Allen, a member of the committee.
But the amount of artwork wasn’t the only deciding factor. Cook said she was drawn to Van Keppel’s artwork. She said his portfolio was interesting and beautiful, and she knew she was dealing with an established artist.
Van Keppel studied glasswork at KU and graduated in 1985. He has been making glass art since 1981. His public art projects include a chandelier featured in the Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
“We’re both really honored to be invited to produce artwork for the library,” Van Keppel said. “We really wanted to leave a lasting mark on the importance of libraries in our culture and the importance of truth in science.”
The library is currently located at 700 New Hampshire St., but will move back to 7th and Vermont streets when renovations are completed in the summer of 2014.