TEMPERANCE - There are no park scenes by Monet or any smirking Mona Lisa's hanging from several sheets of blue barn paneling on the wall of the Bedford Branch Library.
There is, however, enough award-winning local art to brighten almost any area, and unlike those staid old masterpieces that hang in places like the Louvre, you can take any of these home with you for free without triggering an international manhunt.
“Some people like to hang them in their offices, some to hang in their homes, to get a sense of the colors or just to enjoy a new piece of art for a while,” said Lois White, head librarian at the Bedford Branch Library.
The works are gleaned each year from the Bedford Arts Council's annual Arts for Our Future show, which occurs at the library each November, Mrs. White said. The pieces are purchased from the artists competing in the juried show, and most were recognized for individual honors. The council has paid anywhere from a few dozen dollars for each oil, watercolor, or photograph, to several hundred.
“Each year we buy at least one piece for our Art-For-Loan program. Right now, we've got between 40 and 50 pieces in our collection, and they're all the work of local artists,” Mrs. White said.
Bedford's program is similar to one that operates out of the main Ellis Branch Library in Monroe Charter Township, which gleans the inventory for its Art-For-Loan program from an annual show at Monroe County Community College.
The collection includes some of the best artists in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, including works by Jean Wetzler, a watercolorist from the area whose pieces have won several awards.
Once they are added to the collection, each piece can be checked out for as long as three months at a time. “All you need is a library card,” Mrs. White said.
Fran Maedel of Monroe has pieces in both the Bedford and Ellis branches Art-For-Loan collections. While she said she doesn't believe she's ever sold a piece as a direct result of someone checking out one of her paintings from the library, the fact that her works are circulated is flattering, the artist said.
“It does give added exposure to my work. It's flattering to know something should be chosen for that purpose,” Mrs. Maedel said.
While the Art-For-Loan program may be a hidden gem, some items have proved more popular than others, Mrs. White said. The watercolors and oils, for example, are frequently checked out while patrons have passed over the collection's sculpture.
In addition to the Art For Loan collection, the library also boasts its own inventory of fine arts that have been culled from the show over the last two decades. That collection, which occupies wall space throughout the branch, is on permanent display and is not loaned out to library patrons.