Participatory Service Proposal:
Artist in Residence, Belmar Branch
Jefferson County Public Libraries, Lakewood, Colorado
This proposal outlines the creation of a permanent, integrated artist-in-residence program for the Belmar Branch of the Jefferson County Libraries.
Artists selected for this program will be in residence for three-month terms, during which they will:
- Plan and execute, in collaboration with library staff, six formal multigenerational programs or events and six related passive programs
- Assist library staff in bringing hands-on art activity components to existing programs such as storytimes, teen writing groups, intercambios, etc.
- Plan and execute, in collaboration with library staff, two visual art exhibits or three readings or performances, as appropriate to their medium.
- Create a body of work to be digitized to be included in a permanent, interactive digital collection of former artists in residence. This body of work may, but is not required to, include instructional, oral history, or other interpretive materials. Permanent loans or donations of one or more physical works for display in the library at the end of the residency period are appreciated but not required.
- Create a written reflection at the end of the residency to be included in a permanent digital collection of former artists in residence. This reflection may be, but is not required to be, suitable for scholarly publication.
Preference will be given to artists whose work:
- Reflects and celebrates the diverse community of Belmar and Lakewood.
- Demonstrates a background in and commitment to community-based, activist, and participatory art projects.
- Includes technology components that engage patrons in the creation process in ways that support technical literacy (videography and recording, digital design and manipulation, etc).
Action Brief Statement
An Artist in Residence program at the Belmar Branch seeks to convince low-income families that by accessing and experiencing the arts they will expand cultural literacy which will increase social and economic opportunity because access to arts and culture for communities and individuals is directly correlated to prosperity.
Bring specific, detailed, hands-on and ongoing arts participation and education into a library community.
- Specific: artists-in-residence programs allow individual artists focused on an area of expertise to engage the community in their signature art form. This is not an overview “arts” program but a series of experiences relating to a particular artist working in a particular medium from a particular point of view.
- Detailed: the artist-in-residence structure allows much greater breadth and depth, and exploration of more different angles of medium, process, composition, craft, cultural and historical context, and evolution than a one-time program or a series of lecture or hands-on programs with one program for each artist.
- Hands-on: the artist will act as a facilitator, not a demonstrator. Both formal and passive programming will be engaging, experiential, and patron-focused.
- Ongoing: This is a permanent program fully integrated into the library service model. Each artist has enough time in residence to create a body of work, build relationships with patrons and staff, and explore process in deep and varied ways.
Description of Community
Belmar is a pioneering example of mixed-use development (Briggs, 2016) built from 2001 to 2005 on the site of the former Villa Italia shopping mall, just across Wadsworth Boulevard from the city administration complex of Lakewood, Colorado, which includes the Belmar Branch of the Jefferson County Libraries system and Belmar Park of the Lakewood city park network. To the north and northwest of Belmar Park are recent middle-income housing developments, and to the south of the park are older residential neighborhoods. The immediate area around the library (the 80216 zip code, about 3600 households and 10000 residents) is young, diverse with a strong (72%) Hispanic presence, ranging wildly in income with a large low-income population, and family-oriented. (US Census Bureau, 2016a)
Beyond the Belmar area, the Belmar Library serves the city of Lakewood (population 143k), a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and shares a large service area overlap both with other Jefferson County branches and with several branches of the Denver Public Library system. Several major cross-city public transit lines terminate at Lakewood City Center, making the Belmar Branch an active destination for public transit users.
Jefferson County Libraries has recently made a strategic priority of hands-on, participatory programming with experiential education and community development components. The Belmar branch, which has tremendously strong and vital children’s programming but has not had as strong an adult programming presence historically, has recently shifted priorities into this area. This combination of service gap, opportunity, and community need situate Belmar as an ideal incubator for this type of program in the Jefferson County Libraries.
Evidence and Resources
970West Studio (Mesa County, Colorado):
The Bubbler (Madison, Wisconsin):
IdeaBox (Oak Park, Illinois):
Artist Profiles (various libraries):
Policy statements, RFPs, and artist applications (various libraries):
Arts Access, Prosperity, and the Opportunity Gap:
- Arts and Health (Journal).
- Five Ways Arts Education is Closing Opportunity Gaps in Guilford County
- Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development
- Catterall, J. S. (2012). The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. Research Report# 55. National Endowment for the Arts.
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy
The mission, vision, and values of JCPL are:
Vision: Jefferson County Public Library will be the essential destination where all generations connect, discover and create.
Mission: Jefferson County Public Library helps to build an educated and vibrant community by providing equal access to information and opportunities.
Values: We serve with care; everyone is welcome here. We meet you where you are, give you our full attention and strive to exceed your expectations. Our core values are Innovation, Accountability and Excellence.
Belmar is a strongly Hispanic community (72% Hispanic- or Latino-identified, 56% speak Spanish at home, 28% born outside the US) with a median income of $38k (US Census, 2016a) while Lakewood as a whole is considerably more white and affluent (US Census, 2016b). Research has shown (Avila, 2012) that Hispanic and Latino families use libraries in an intentionally multigenerational way. Belmar already has strong children’s programming, needs to connect with adult patrons to “connect, discover, and create,” and has a mandate to do that in a broad-based, horizontal, robust way. By focusing this program on multigenerational programming, the library addresses a known needs gap in a way that is responsive to how a defined priority target service population is already using the library.
Responsibility for developing and implementing policy and procedures for this program will be the role of a committee made up of the Branch Manager, branch and district Public Services Managers, and district Kids and Families Manager, with oversight from the Library Director.
Direct responsibility for recruiting, vetting, and making offers to potential artists will be the role of the Adult Services Librarian, with input from the Children’s Services Librarian, Teen Outreach Librarian, and Special Populations Librarian, and oversight from the Branch Public Services Manager, Branch Manager, and district Public Services Manager.
A number of sample policies and applications are included in the section above as a starting point for developing a set of policies, best practices, and expectations tailored for JCPL and Belmar.
The artist will be a paid contractor with the library system and the artist stipend will be allocated from the branch payroll budget as the equivalent of one 20-hour-per-week Patron Experience (PX) paralibrarian (about $1500 per month). Marketing for the program will go through the existing district marketing department and workflow.
Materials will be the artist’s responsibility, as funding requirements for materials will vary wildly depending on medium and programming design considerations. The artist is strongly encouraged to pursue funding from the many Colorado organizations that support artists in residence, and artists who have submitted applications may receive assistance from the library administration in grant applications for this purpose. JCPL will maintain a list of local funding organizations that are interested in supporting this type of programming. Some examples include:
- The Boettcher Foundation
- Colorado Humanities
- Colorado Creative Industries
- Arts for Colorado
- Think 360 For Learning
- Latino Community Foundation of Colorado
Action Steps & Timeline:
- Spring 2017: Convene first committee meeting and develop visioning for the project
- Summer 2017: Develop policy and RFP/application framework and submit funding request for 2018 budget year a 50% funding.
- September, 2017: Finalize and approve policy and RFP/application framework; release RFP for first round.
- December 2017: Critique and revise RFP process; release RFP for second round.
- January 2018: 2018 funding kicks in, making stipend money available. Select first artist, begin developing programming plan.
- March 2018: Submit PRW (marketing materials request) for first residency; submit 2019 funding request at 100% funding.
- April, 2018: PRW approval from Marketing Department. Select second artist, begin developing programming plan.
- May 2018: Compile report of launch process.
- June, 2018: Submit PRW for second residency.
- July 1, 2018: Begin first residency.
- October 1, 2018: Begin second residency
The “plan b” allows for completely dropping the first cycle to launch the program with the first residency beginning October 1. In fact, with the timeline established, the program can be launched at any time, accommodating whatever delays may develop in the process indefinitely, if necessary. This model for rolling submissions and flexible launches of ongoing programs on an incremental delivery cycle is well established and effective for managing delays in early-stage implementation.
In addition to the payroll designate for the artist-in-residence (AIR), this program will require some staff time. As with all programming, PX staff are encouraged to assist in programs that are of personal or professional interest to them as part of their normal off-desk duties; the Public Services Manager will work with individual PX staff to balance allocation of time for this purpose, including allowing additional hours as appropriate. At times, AIR and other programming may overlap (for example, including AIR components in pre-existing ongoing children’s and teen programming: having a writer-, poet-, or book-arts artist-in-residence work with the teen writing group, or coordinate a Wacky Wednesday STEAM program in collaboration with a staff member.) The AIR and YA Services and Outreach Librarians are also encouraged to include TAB and other volunteers.
The institutional culture of JCPL already supports staff and volunteers taking initiative in leadership and support roles in a wide variety of activities. This proposal is committed to integrating this program into the culture of the library in a continuous, holistic and horizontal way, engaging all staff, and as such the long-term goal is to work this program into the permanent budget of the branch and daily duties of the staff. Short-term grants and initiatives may be utilized to get the program off the ground (see Funding Considerations, above) but will not be relied upon in an ongoing way.
Much of the actual programming content will be delivered by the AIR.
A brief portion of the branch all-staff meetings in months preceding a change of artist will include introducing the artist, their medium and work, and the planned programming.
Staff assisting the AIR in programming will gain more in-depth knowledge of the artist, their medium and work in the course of preparing and executing the program. Any tech training required for staff relating to AIR activities will be negotiated and arranged in the program planning phase, to be executed by Staff Training personnel, personnel from other departments with a particular and relevant area of knowledge, or the AIR themselves.
Promotion & Marketing
Standard marketing, including social networking-based marketing, will go through the existing Marketing Department workflows.
The nature of the artists’ work in each residence cycle and their existing relationships with cultural institutions and communities should suggest additional directions for marketing. Some initial ideas on how to craft this should be prompted in the application; it should be further developed for each residence in the program planning phase.
Methodologies for assessment:
- Quantitative data collection on program attendance, passive program participation, and other patron engagement metrics
- Spot surveying of program attendees
- AIR and staff self-assessments
- Observational assessment of AIR and assisting staff by supervisory and peer staff
- Participatory action research methodologies embedded in the programs (Lincoln, Lynham, and Guba, 2011)
Where do we go from here?
- This proposal envisions the expansion of the AIR to (one or more) full-time position(s) equivalent in compensation to that of a librarian, serving multiple branches or the entire district in an outreach role.
- There are several different ways that this program can generate rich, granular, qualitative data on the impact of access to arts education and participation. One hope for this proposal is that it will spark a broader conversation in the library community about the role of arts and cultural access in community engagement and connection, celebration of diversity, self-advocacy, and transformative creative experience.
- The staff assisting with these programs will build both personal and professional skillsets and perspectives particular to the role of libraries as creative and collaborative spaces, and are encouraged to go on to develop other creative programming projects.
- The Greater Denver Metro Area is a hotspot for this type of programming. With this proposal, JCPL joins Anythink, Denver Public Library, Longmont Library, and other local library systems with similar programs. Collaboration with these libraries and with the State Library and Colorado Library Consortium to model and mentor arts programs in smaller libraries and outlying areas benefits the broader region.
- The elegance and beauty of participatory action research is in how the process and analysis of the research itself is the catalyst for transformation, and reveals possibilities that cannot be envisioned or predicted at the outset. Constant assessment and revision of program parameters will generate new possibilities. (Brydon-Miller et al, 2011)
Avila, S. (2012). Serving Latino Teens. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Bergholz, K. (2012). IdeaBox.
Briggs, A. (5/6/2016). “10 years later, Belmar exceeds expectations for Lakewood growth, identity.” Denver Post. Retrieved on 3/19/2016 from
Brydon-Miller, M., et al (2011). “Jazz and the banyan tree: Roots and riffs on participatory action research.” In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (eds.) The Sage handbook of qualitative research (387-400). Los Angeles : Sage.
Lincoln, Y., Lynham, S., & Guba, E. (2011). “Paradgimatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited.” In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (eds.) The Sage handbook of qualitative researh (97-128). Los Angeles : Sage.
Los Angeles Public Library. (2015). IMLS Focus: Engaging Communities.
Rainy, L. (2016). The Puzzles Librarians need to Solve.
Simon, N. (n.d.). The participatory museum.
Stephens, M. (2010). The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate.
Stephens, M. (2012). The age of participation.
United States Census Bureau (2016). “Community Facts: 80216.” American FactFinder.
United States Census Bureau (2016). “Community Facts: Lakewood city, Colorado.” American FactFinder.
DISCLAIMER: This is an abstract thought experiment for academic purposes, not a proposal under consideration, and does not reflect the priorities or actual programming initiatives of JCPL. The policies, institutional structure, and values of JCPL are expressed to the best understanding of the author in good faith. The administration of JCPL has not endorsed this proposal.