Youth Services Program Librarian
Kenosha Public Library
With their EJK Mini-Grant, the Kenosha Public Library in Kenosha, WI embarked upon a three-month community-wide collaborative art project called “We Are Kenosha.” The goal was to reach beyond existing library users in the hopes of learning more about Kenosha residents who do not possess a library card.
The Kenosha Public Library partnered with 16 organizations, local businesses, schools and other community groups, and asked each to host a “We Are Kenosha” ballot box for a period of three months. Each organization received a ballot box (donated by Uline, a local business), along with an instructional sign, a plastic container with index cards, markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pencil sharpeners, which were all purchased using their EJK Mini-Grant. The materials and collection boxes were put in visible areas to which the public had easy access.
The premise was simple: citizens of Kenosha passing by the ballot boxes were asked to respond to three questions: Who are you? What is important to you? What do you love about Kenosha? Responses were only limited by a participant’s imagination!
Says librarian Heather Thompson, “We had more than 200 participants engage in the ‘We Are Kenosha’ project. We heard from and learned about citizens we do not typically reach, such as inmates at the Kenosha County Detention Center. The project allowed our citizens to share beautiful and meaningful artwork, thoughts and beliefs with others across the city.
A large number of the drawings submitted were put on display for the months of May and June, as a mural, in the lobby of the Southwest Public Library. This is the biggest Library branch in Kenosha putting the “We Are Kenosha” project on view for the 30,000 visitors who pass through the building every month.