Bexley Art Library's Borrowed Beauty

Patrons can check out an original piece of art from the unique collection—just like a library book.

Dana Randall
“Floater” by Christine D’Epiro Abbott

The pandemic delivered a blow to artists, who’ve had limited options for presenting their work, but a program at the Bexley Public Library is helping out—and brightening patrons’ homes in the process.

The Bexley Art Library is Central Ohio’s first and only collection of original works that can be borrowed and taken home for display. Anyone with a library card (available to all Ohioans) can reserve one of 15 pieces by Franklin County artists, check it out using touchless curbside service and enjoy it for 28 days.

“The artists’ reactions were really heartwarming,” says Leann Schneider Webb, Bexley’s adult services librarian, who spearheaded the new program. “It’s been so meaningful for them to be supported in this way by the library—being featured in a collection so accessible to a wide range of patrons they might not have reached otherwise, especially in a pandemic when they aren’t able to show their work publicly.”

“Am I To Follow” by Rose Klockner

Schneider Webb was inspired to create the art library by the experience of a friend, who was able to rent original Picasso prints while enrolled at Oberlin College. Each of Bexley’s pieces was purchased for $400, and six local arts professionals curated the collection, which was funded by grants from the Bexley Community Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the State Library of Ohio. Featured artists include Christine D’Epiro Abbott (printmaking), Dejiah Archie-Davis (multimedia), Richard Limes (painting/encaustic) and Rose Klockner (photography), among others.

“We wanted our collection to be as diverse as the community we represent as a library,” says Schneider Webb.

As of early February, about half the art was checked out, while the collection has had nearly 50 patrons since its launch in October 2020.