Imagine walking into your local library and realizing that the only decorations on the walls are standard clocks. No artwork, no interesting details to catch your eye and make you think. All you see are bare walls, wooden desks, and tall book stacks. That doesn’t sound like a welcoming environment, does it? Imagine trying to bring your child there for storytime or your teen for a crafting program; the waiting room at a doctor’s office would look friendlier than the inside of the library.
We want your visits to the LPL to be as rich as possible, from the moment you walk through our doors until the moment you leave. We offer our patrons an experience, including excellent customer service and a great variety of materials and programs. Yet, a special part of the LPL experience is easily overlooked: the amazing artwork we display throughout the building. Each painting, mural, sculpture, and wall hanging has been specially chosen for its symbolic meaning, historical value, or overall aesthetic.
The next time you visit the LPL, consider taking a walking tour of the library’s artwork. Your first stop should be the “Levittown Fiftieth Anniversary Quilt,” located in the front lobby. The Levittown Quilters Club donated it during a formal presentation on April 17, 1997. The blocks showcase different Cape Cod and ranch style homes familiar to Levittown residents, in addition to prominent community landmarks and symbols, including: the Levittown Fire Department, the Long Island Flying Club, Abraham Levitt, and the Levittown Public Library, of course.
Next, stop by the Circulation Department. On the wall behind the public copy machine, you will find a metal sculpture titled Pied Piper, created by renowned sculptor Herman Schweigert. Dated from 1963, this multi-piece sculpture depicts the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin and a dozen children, with each child placed in a swirling pattern that moves upward, taking advantage of the wall-sized fabric background on which this impressive piece is mounted. Pied Piper was donated to the LPL by the library’s Staff Association and the background was donated in memory of Cecile and Arnold Roberts.
If you take a detour to the Children’s Room, you will notice a whimsical metal sculpture attached to the archway. This is just one of several sculptures we have acquired from artist Curtis Jere (also known as C. Jere). This one is apropos in its placement, as it depicts a circus theme, complete with a kid-friendly carousel. Moving through the archway, your eyes will certainly be drawn to the large-scale working clock straight ahead, which was presented to the children of Levittown in memory of Susan Anderson.
Now, it’s time to make your way to the Reference Department. There, you will see one of our most impressive pieces: a hand-carved mural created by New York artist Stanley Kaplan in 1959. The Levittown Mural is the focal point of our Reference Department, and for good reason. It is comprised of five panels, with each mahogany panel meticulously depicting a different literary work (Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Letter and “The Raven”). Mr. Kaplan devoted over 1,700 hours of his own personal time to create this incredible work of art. It was originally dedicated to “the youth of Levittown Memorial High School” (you can see this inscription near the first panel) and hung in the school library until it was donated to the LPL following the closing of Memorial. The mural represents not only the intersection of art and literature, but also the LPL’s proud connection to our community’s past. Words cannot do it justice; you need to see it for yourselves.
Directly across from the The Levittown Mural are five additional metalwork sculptures by Curtis Jere. These sculptures—depicting sailboats, a bridge, a park, seagulls, and a lighthouse—were purchased by former Director Celeste Watman because of their symbolic representation of Long Island. Another Jere piece is located downstairs in the Media department, this one of interconnected bicycles, donated in memory of Alvin Briskie. While you’re downstairs, you can finish up your art gazing with a stroll down the halls, where a smattering of canvas paintings, wall hangings, and interesting sculptures can be found throughout our lower level, including the P.W. Martin Study Room. Instead of giving you all the details on those, I’ll let you discover these hidden gems for yourselves.
As you can see, the Levittown Public Library encourages cultural and historical enrichment in ways that go beyond the bookshelves. I encourage you to explore the art discussed here and seek out the rest of our collection.
Happy Reading and Sightseeing,
*This is the second in a continuing series of entries highlighting Hidden LPL Treasures (AKA little-known services we offer and features of our library that we think are pretty great!) Make sure to read our first entry about the LPL’s awesome microfilm collection.