Outdoor Art Series: Library Sculptures In Barrington

Jul 5, 2013

The public library in the Chicago suburb of Barrington isn’t just an oasis for book lovers and knowledge seekers. Outside the walls, it has attractions for art enthusiasts. In the first part of our summer series on outdoor art, WNIJ's Mike Moen checked out the sculptures that decorate this sprawling property.

On the edge of the parking lot at the Barrington-area library, a dirt path connects the library campus with a nearby park. On a warm summer day, we caught up with area resident Michael Pobuda and his wife Laura as they walked toward the park - something they do from time to time. Pobuda says one of the things they enjoy about the walk is seeing attractions that are hard for the eye to ignore.  

“It’s a little improvement to the typical green landscape that’s in the area here. It’s something that’s attractive,” Pobuda said.  

Pobuda is talking about two large sculptures stationed between the parking lot and the path. One of them is a giant “X” made out of stainless steel. Karen McBride, who’s the library’s public information manager, notes that it’s one of the many works by DeKalb artist Bruce White.

“White just said that the letter X has fascinated him for quite some time because of the different things it is used to symbolize. You know, the unknown, a barrier, a warning”

McBride says there is something particular about this piece she enjoys.

“I think it’s very fun that the some of the x’s that were carved out of the steel are scattered around the bottom. It gives it kind of that spur-of-the-moment [feel], almost like it got created here on the spot, like it sort of fell from the sky,” McBride said.

A few yards down rest four larger-than-life wooden chairs that feature uneven patterns in their shape. At first glance, they appear to be a little different from one another. But the artist, Ed Kowalczyk, actually assembled them exactly the same way. McBride says Kowalczyk was inspired by the 2000 presidential debates.

“He was expressing his idea that he didn’t feel that the candidates had very different ideas. They might be acting that they’re ideas are so different and challenging, but he felt like there wasn’t much variation,” McBride said.  

While these two sculptures are easy to spot, there are others the blend in with the building and its layers of landscaping and gardens. McBride says that’s one of the things that makes their rotating collection of outdoor art so unique. She says that’s especially the case for residents passing though.

“They’re not necessarily coming here to use the library or to see the sculpture. But suddenly it’s there. It’s on their walk path and they’re gonna stop. I’ve seen couples walking the dog at night who suddenly come over to check something out, let the dog sniff it a little bit. It’s a whole different way to experience art,” McBride said.

Longtime Barrington resident Richard Larson says he doesn’t get lost in contemplation when checking out a piece. But he does appreciate that they’re here.  

“It adds a cultural dimension to the property. There’s a sense of relaxation that you derive from it,” Larson said.

Others say the sculptures are an extension of the community’s dedication to the arts. The library’s Karen McBride cites the generous donors that make it possible for all of the public to enjoy. Whether you have a trained eye or are simply a novice, she says you will get something out of it.

“I think it’s great to give people a hands-on, informal experience of art. We don’t have much of it in our everyday lives anymore, which is too bad. So this is a great introduction,” McBride said.

The library has spots for 13 pieces; Only 8 are on display as the facility undergoes a renovation. But officials say all the walking grounds are still open for anyone to soak up some art on a warm summer day.