In fall 2014, Omaha Public Library and Why Arts? Inc. came together to create an innovative new project for after school book clubs. As part of the partnership, five artists spent time at participating schools and used their skills to bring new experiences to reading through visual and graphic arts, sculpture, poetry, music, theater, and dance.
Jody duRand, OPL community engagement manager, connected with Why Arts? Inc. through the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (CEC) at the University of Nebraska Omaha. OPL’s involvement at the CEC has helped to create opportunities to work with other Omaha-area organizations with similar goals.
“I learn about what [organizations] do and think about how OPL might be able to work with them,” said duRand, “by collaborating on a project, sharing OPL resources that will help these organizations be their best, or through a full-on partnerships (as we did with Why Arts? Inc.).”
In thinking about how to best utilize the new partnership with after school book club programming, OPL outreach specialist Maggie Rasmussen selected The Giver by Lois Lowry as the vessel for this collaboration. She felt the book allowed for reinterpretation with the arts. Rasmussen described the imagery of the scene where Jonas first notices the color red on an apple as a “visceral, cool moment” that translated well for the use of this project. She also said it was one of her favorite books in junior high, and she wondered how her experience might have been different if she had been guided through the themes of the book.
As the end of the program approached, the after-school book clubs had not only read and examined the content of the book, but members and their artist mentors also had created five unique forms of art to share and help tell the story of their experience. Learn more about their journey in the video below.