Local artists selected to transform the exterior of Rondo Community Library

Gita Ghei, Melvin Giles, and Aki Shibata will host a design workshop at the library (461 North Dale Street) on March 9, 3–4:30 p.m., to engage community members in the process of imagining a new library façade.

SAINT PAUL, MN - Artists and collaborators Gita Ghei, Melvin Giles, and Aki Shibata have a vision for Rondo Community Library. “We see the library as a wellspring of sharing thoughts and words. We see potential for highlighting the library as a welcoming gateway and gathering community space. Concepts that stand out for us include: light, safety, color, multi-cultural languages, literacy, mixed media, and earth.”

The three were recently selected by a community panel, through a process led by Springboard for the Arts, to bring that vision to life. They will receive $44,000 to cover all expenses related to artwork creation and installation on the library’s exterior on the corner of Dale Street and University Avenue. The artists will begin a community engagement process with a design workshop this Saturday, March 9, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the library. Installation of the final design will begin fall 2019.

Rondo Community Library is Saint Paul’s busiest branch and serves as a community gathering place. Inside, ideas are bubbling, knowledge is building, empathy is cultivated, and imaginations are transported to faraway worlds. Outside, the library appears cold, stone, and nondescript.

“We want to align the building’s exterior with its interior,” said Library Director Catherine Penkert. “Because the community is so much a part of the library and vice versa, we aim to engage residents and library users in the artistic process every step of the way. We hope the final installation will authentically reflect the vibrancy of the Rondo neighborhood.”

Ghei, Giles, and Shibata all have a deep connection to the neighborhood. Ghei recently completed public arts commissions for Frogtown Farm and is a volunteer with Frogtown Green’s Tree Frogs pop-up park program. Giles grew up in Rondo where he still resides. He is a well-known peace and social-justice activist within the community. Shibata has lived in Frogtown with her husband and son for many years.

The Friends of Saint Paul Public Library secured funding for the library’s façade project from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as a winner of its 2017 Saint Paul Knight Arts Challenge, and the National Endowment for the Arts, to commission a neighborhood artist or team to create a work representative of the library and its surrounding community. The library partnered with Springboard for the Arts to design and manage the artist selection, design, and implementation process.