If large black birds strike you as somehow ominous, the one perched in the lobby of the Oak Park Public Library’s main branch will definitely catch your attention. Larger than life-size and made of papier-mâché, it promotes the upcoming Edgar Allan Poe Big Read program, which, by happy coincidence, comes along in time to intersect with the ArtRageous arts festival.
The library’s program lasts all month, leading right up to and including Halloween (which seems aproPoe). For the complete schedule, go to ww.oppl.org/bigread.
This happens to be the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth (same year as Lincoln), but that’s not really why the library chose the master of the macabre. Turns out they were looking for something that would appeal to a younger audience, and given the current rage for adolescent vampires, Poe’s creepiness may be the perfect complement.
This is the library’s third Big Read, a program sponsored and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (the Forest Park and River Forest libraries, as well as the Oak Park Area Arts Council and the Oak Park Art League, are co-sponsors). In 2006, the Oak Park Public Library put on a month-long series of events related to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 even though the NEA didn’t fund them.
“We proved we could do a lot without funding,” said Debby Preiser, the library’s community relations coordinator.
That probably helped, along with the strong local connection, the following year when they received $10,000 to highlight Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Because such programs involve so much work, Preiser said, they took last year off and re-applied this year for The Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. They only received $3,000, but they have lots of people pitching in.
Like staff member Jeanne Friedell, for instance, and Irene Balks, who talked Preiser into helping them create the larger-than-life raven in Friedell’s backyard on Labor Day. Since it was too big to transport by car, they had to have a staff member bring it over in a library van.
The effort was highlighted in the NEA’s Big Read blog (arts.gov/bigreadblog), Roadshow and Tell.
It’s an indication of the level of community cooperation they always benefit from, Preiser said. At the training session in Minneapolis this summer, one library suggested bringing in an actual detective to discuss “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Preiser contacted Chief Rick Tanksley at the Oak Park Police Department, and Tanksley agreed to come himself (Oct. 27).
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore owner Augie Aleksy will host four mystery writers at his shop in Forest Park, 7419 W. Madison, on Oct. 21.
House Red, the wine shop in Forest Park, loaned the Oak Park library a $40 bottle of Amontillado sherry in honor of “The Cask of Amontillado.” It’s in a second-floor display case. House Red is hosting a wine and sherry tasting on Oct. 30 at the shop, which is at 7403 W. Madison.
Poe inspires more fun and participation, Preiser said, and that is particularly true of the 22 artists who created Poe-inspired works for the exhibit that begins this Saturday with a reception in the second-floor gallery from 2 to 4 p.m. The works range from a Pogo-inspired cartoon (“You can quote me”) to a painting of a raven with a quote mark in its mouth.
“I think we should do H.P. Lovecraft next,” said Keith Taylor, president of the Art League board.