Eclectic Collection

B.J. Dorris’ “Jewels of the Sea” is one of more than 50 paintings on display at the Mississippi Library Commission.

B.J. Dorris’ “Jewels of the Sea” is one of more than 50 paintings on display at the Mississippi Library Commission. Photo by Kathleen M. Mitchell.

In a modern-looking building of ash and concrete and glass, tucked away in the woods off Interstate 55’s Frontage Road, you can find two things: a lot of books and a lot of art.

The books are a given. The building is the Mississippi Library Commission. The art is another story. Besides an extensive permanent collection found on the library’s walls, every two months a new exhibit opens. This month and next, the featured art is a collection of paintings from the Mississippi Artists Guild.

With paintings from around 40 different artists, the exhibit features many different art styles, from Kay Shropshire Heller’s thick, abstracts strokes in “Feathered Finery” to the nearly photographic underwater scene, “Jewels of the Sea,” by B.J. Dorris. The colors in Wm. Jerry Strowd’s “Ruby Falls”—electric pink and soft mint and purple—catch the eye in a way that is completely different from the muted tones of Ann Armstrong’s small, quiet still life “Grandmother’s Scissors.”

Paintings of loved ones hang next to rickety boats, next to landscapes, birds and still lifes. The subtlety of oil sits next to the texture of multimedia. The exhibit as a whole is somewhat like flipping the channels quickly, getting snatches of different programs one right after another—but in a way that feels eclectic rather than chaotic. It’s appreciation by comparison rather than cohesion.

Sharman Smith, executive director of the Library Commission, believes the rotating art exhibits are beneficial to both the commission and the artists who show.

“It gives them a good bit of exposure, plus we get a lot of people who walk in just to see the art exhibits,” she says. “So besides liking to have wonderful art here, it also gets people into the building and helps us make people aware of the services the Library Commission has to offer. We’ve gotten a lot of new library users by having these artists exhibits.”

As for the Library Commission itself, Smith says it’s somewhere between a public library and a university collection. “We are the library for the blind and physically handicapped in the state. Anyone who can’t, for whatever reason, hold a traditional book, we can provide them talking books, large-print books, Braille books, whatever it takes so that everyone in the state has an opportunity to read,” Smith says.

Smith is also proud that everything in the library is accessible. “We have a fairly extensive Mississippi collection, and one of the things that makes our collection so unique is that everything checks out,” she says.

“Our purpose is to have it available to people. Even our reference collection can be checked out.”

The Mississippi Library Commission also works with libraries across the state. The organization offers assistance and advice, organizing the statewide summer reading project and serving as a backup lending library.

The commission building was designed to be conducive to hosting events. With a big lawn out back, large meeting rooms and great views, the commission is the perfect place to breathe a little slower, do some reading and check out local art.

The Mississippi Artists Guild collection will display at the Mississippi Library Commission (3881 Eastwood Drive, 601-432-4111, http://www.mlc.lib.ms.us through Feb. 28. The exhibit is free and open for viewing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Jan. 31, the commission is holding a reception with the artists from 5-7 p.m. For more information, call 601-432-4111 or email [email protected]


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