Thursday, June 24, 2010

Books on a Bronze Bench?

Louisville, Part III: Charles P. Farnsley

It's always curious for me to find books carved or cast into some artistic object. Curious, because I presume there is some reason why the artist or sculptor created the book. Such is the case with the statue of a former mayor of Louisville, the late Charles P. Farnsley (1907-1990), who can be seen cross-legged, arm outstretched, and enjoying the street view in downtown Louisville. The sculpture is by Dawn D. Yates on West Main Street, near both the Louisville Slugger Museum and the International History Museum. There may be several reasons why a book appears in bronze next to Mr. Farnsley, and not simply because a book is a decorative object that may be here to keep the old mayor company.

According to the website, under the title "Louisville Life," Farnsley was best known for his contribution to the arts in Louisville. The "Fund for the Arts" was a Farnsley initiative to consolidate and unite arts groups in the region, in order to promote sustainability in the arts through fundraising. It is, according to this site, one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country, and brought Farnsley national attention for his insight. But perhaps the clearest reason for there being a book next to Mr. Farnsley is that he promoted the expansion of the Louisville Free Public Library. His tenure as mayor lasted from 1948-1953, but his impact was so great, according to many in the city, that the Louisville Historical League notes his time in office as one of the top historical events in Louisville history in the 20th century.

So, whatever the reason a book sits calmly next to old Mr. Farnsley, we can appreciate the bronze book-object for it revelatory powers of attraction. But we can also appreciate, even more, the role that this man played in promoting the arts and, of course, our library profession.

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