By Peg Bessette Knight
Senior Product Manager, Arts
At this year’s ARLIS Meeting, ProQuest wanted to try out something new to capture the attention of the very creative and highly visual ARLIS membership. So not only did we take advantage of the vertical space above our 8-foot table, creating posters to bring attention to The Vogue Archive and Art and Architecture Archive, but we also wanted to find a unique way to engage the ARLIS audience.
So we invited ARLIS members to submit their favorite quotes on art, creativity, and the humanities. Thanks to the generosity of ARLIS, we were able to solicit inspirational quotes from the membership prior to and during the meeting, in exchange for the chance to win an iPad® Mini.
We assembled these submissions into a slide deck to share at the ARLIS meeting. Looking through them while I was in the exhibit hall, a quote submitted by Dana Hart at the Metropolitan Museum of Art seemed to harness the spirit of what ProQuest wanted to do at this meeting: “Make it new.” (Ezra Pound)
Thanks to the contributions of ARLISians, the quote submissions really made the conference feel fresh to us, and to several who stopped by to read the quotes, look for their quotes, and see what others had submitted, not only giving us a visual display to share in the booth, but giving us the chance to talk to some of the membership about why these words meant so much to them.
Rich conversations unfolded, like the one with Kitty Chibnik, Associate Director at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. She had sent in a quote concerning the tools of the trade:
“I have all kinds of brushes. A lot of them are house painter's brushes... I put them in boiling water until they are kind of rubbery. Then they hold the paint, and it gives me great comfort to paint with them. Other brushes I have made up by Grumbacher. I have them in three sizes--big ones and little ones... " (Willem de Kooning)
What was so memorable for me was how this quote spoke to Kitty, how the artist’s connection to his materials was so central to it for her.
To see and hear someone unpack why these ideas matter to them, right in front of you, provides a whole new insight into who our customers and users are, and takes conversations beyond features and contracts, trials and price quotes, to why we do what we do.
Another thing that struck me as I reviewed the quotes was the range. There were quotes from Rodin and Picasso, sure, but also from Tchaikovsky, from Dorothy Parker, from Ezra Pound, Leonard Cohen, and Mick Jagger—a testament to the multidisciplinary nature of the study of art.
I also had a great visit with Sarah Polkinghorne from University of Alberta, who said she loved the idea of the quotes. She not only submitted the Leonard Cohen quote, but also let me snap her picture… (And, by the way, she was wearing 100% Canadian designers!) [Image above: Sarah Polkinghorne, Public Services Librarian, University of Alberta]
Here was Sarah’s Leonard Cohen quote:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. (from “Anthem”)
I went to my first ARLIS meeting in 2014, and recall it as one of the most welcoming, inclusive groups I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. For me, this is embodied by the William Morris quote that Leslie Abrams at University of California, San Diego submitted:
“I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.” (William Morris)
That quote came up on the ARLIS listserv recently, and I believe it was this quote that sparked the idea at the show. I liked the inclusivity of it, and the notion that art was not an optional thing, but essential, a basic human right, something no one should be denied. And it’s the quote that made it occur to me that there was some passion around these quotes we sometimes share, some guiding creative force, philosophy, or principle.
Finally, there was one quote that really resonated for me personally, because it reminded me so much of one I discovered when I was 17 years old and browsing in my high school library. It’s from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet:
“Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose.”
The quote that Richard Sieber from the Philadelphia Museum of Art submitted is its analogue, and it took me right back to why I love that Rilke quote so much:
“Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.” (Robert Bresson)
For me, it’s about the unique perspective of the individual artist, finding her voice, and making it known to the wider world. It’s why we try to find a way to make it new.
Librarians: Learn more about Arts and Literature resources from ProQuest, check out our new catalog, and sign up for free trials. We will be notifying the winner of the iPad® Mini from our drawing of the submitted quotes.