By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Rembrandt, Matisse, Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe and dozens of other art heavyweights line the walls of the Lee County Library, waiting to hang in living rooms, hallways, office spaces other locations.
Of course, these works aren’t originals, which could value millions of dollars.
The library’s total collection of 87 famous reproductions cost $8,348, funded six years ago through a one-time grant through the federal Library Service and Technology Act. However, the collection remains one of the least checked out with patrons taking home just 75 paintings this year.
Mostly hidden for years in metal partition racks in the Lee County Library, staff recently began displaying gallery-style artwork representing a wide brush of major art periods, genres and prominent artists.
Lee County Library Director Jeff Tomlinson said placing the art along the first and second floors and stairwells helps promote the materials along with adding a visual element to the walls.
“People just browsing through can take a look at them,” he said.
Accompanying each work are labels identifying the artist and composition title. Library employees also can explain styles, artist quirks and specific art history.
“We have many related books for people who have an interest,” Tomlinson said.
While not common in Mississippi, libraries in other states also have art reproductions available for checkout. A survey of the state’s libraries turned up none that check out artwork, but a few in other states offer art.
Tupelo resident Sally Gray, a parent coach for Parents for Parents for Public Schools, has checked out a dozen or more paintings in the last 21⁄2 years, placing in them in her office, along with short descriptions of the work.
“It’s a great way to spread thoughts of art,” she said.