A new mural is spicing up the Forest Avenue Library. A manga-inspired piece by local artist Bill Barnes is now covering the library’s back wall. We sat down with Jen Thomas, a library assistant at Forest, to talk about the project. Jenn is a manga enthusiast and was the point person at the library for this project. (Don't worry, you can read this blog post from left-to-right).
What inspired this idea?
The Urban Fiction section used to be along the back wall where we have the manga now. There was a huge cityscape mural that directed people that way. But the manga collection was gaining popularity and quickly outgrowing the Teen area. It eventually took over the Urban section, which had to be moved, so the mural came down. Bill Barnes had just finished working on Rosie’s Ocean at East, and since we wanted to highlight one of our most popular collections, we asked if he would be interested in creating something manga related.
How did you and Bill Barnes decide what to create?
Bill actually has a background in Japanese art. He is familiar with the unique way that manga is created, with the reader reading from right to left, and had the idea to create a few panels that looked like they came straight out of a book. I picked a couple of classic manga books that I hoped would give him some inspiration, and Bill did the rest.
How long did this take?
Bill and I met several months ago to begin the brainstorming process. I sent him home with a stack of books that he looked through to find the right panels. He had to find panels that would be visually striking, but also resonate emotionally with visitors in only a few words. He is also a working artist, so he had to focus on his own projects first. He has some beautiful pieces currently showing at the Olson-Larsen Galleries in Valley Junction that I highly recommend checking out.
What has the reception been?
It’s only been up for a couple of weeks, but we have heard lots of comments. People instantly recognize the characters and are excited to see them. Totoro, InuYasha, Haku, and Naruto are all featured, and Pikachu is hanging out in the Teen Area. Soon, Astro Boy will be seen in a special installation above reader’s heads.
How big is the manga collection at Forest?
We have over 1,000 items in our manga collection. I am always on the lookout for big series, and the librarians that buy our books are always sending new titles our way. We hope that patrons from all libraries will make Forest a destination to see Bill’s art and check out the Manga Collection.