A few years ago, Knight Foundation set out to bring art and culture into people’s everyday lives by presenting surprise opera and classical ballet performances at markets, parks and airports. More than 1,000 of these Random Acts of Culture™ took place in eight communities across the United States. The reaction each time was amazing to watch, as people grabbed their cellphones for pics and videos, some moved to tears, reminded of the emotional connection they have to the arts.
Now, as we think of new ways to bring the arts to more people, Knight Foundation has turned to libraries. As libraries continue to reinvent themselves in the digital age, they have become spaces that are more about creation than collection.They are amongst the most democratic community spaces we have, used by people from every walk of life, in every age group. Spread throughout neighborhoods, we thought they were an organic way to bring the arts to all communities. All that and more makes them the perfect stage for what we’re calling Library Acts of Culture™.
With this in mind, we set a goal for a trial run of Library Acts of Culture – to bring at least one performance to each library branch in all eight of our Knight Resident communities.
These performances kicked off with a string quartet from Miami Music Project, which brought the sounds of Mozart to the Arcola Lakes and Main library branches in Miami.
Since that first set of classical performances, Library Acts of Culture has branched out to bring dance, opera, jazz and more to branches around the country.
In St. Paul, Glorious Revolution Baroque and Floortribe surprised visitors at the re-opening of the Rice Street library branch with two performances that span the cultural gamut: a baroque vocal and harpsichord performance, followed by the fancy footwork of a Hmong B-Boy group.
I think Carl Atiya Swanson, of St. Paul’s Springboard for the Arts, said it best: “By walking into a library branch you are already participating in an act of culture,” he said. “These performances remind patrons that library branches are civic spaces that not only inform, but also inspire.”
Stay tuned as Library Acts of Culture continue to pop up in branches in all eight Knight Resident communities. You can follow #libraryactsofculture on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or if you come across one, we hope you will post your own photos and videos with the hashtag.