The latest expansion of the Henderson County Public Library had just opened when Shannon Sandefur became director in 2021, but there remained a tall piece of unfinished business.
How tall? Nearly two stories tall.
Specifically, a blank two-story wall across from the new circulation desk.
Well before Sandefur took the job as library director starting in April 2021, there had been a vision for that space.
“There was a desire to have a featured-art wall,” she said.
Hafer Design, the architect for the two-story, 20,500-square-foot addition at Water and Washington streets, had hired an art consultant to seek proposals for the space. But the two artist proposals presented came with price tags that far exceeded the Henderson County Public Library Foundation’s budget.
“They both came in sky-high,” said Greg Gibson, a member of the foundation’s board who became art director for the project. The foundation, which was wrapping up a three-year capital campaign for the expansion, was reluctant to launch another fundraising campaign.
What to do? Sandefur started some conversations, including with Sam Denson, at the time director of the Ohio Valley Art League here, concerning soliciting pieces of art from multiple local or area artists for the wall.
But then Gibson happened to visit The Grady, a boutique hotel in Downtown Louisville that features numerous pieces of original art. It proved revelatory. There, in the lobby hung a large piece of art consisting of a bunch of opened books mounted to the wall to create a sort of canvas for a monochrome painting of a thoroughbred horse.
Gibson, an artist himself, had never seen anything like it. He asked Regina Hicks, The Grady’s operations manager, who was responsible for it. She referred him to Derrick Pedolzky, founder of ReWorked Designs LLC in Louisville.
“I got in touch with Derrick and said, ‘I’ve got a big wall twice that size in Henderson, Ky.,’ ” Gibson said. “He said, ‘I’m your man.’”
As it turned out, the horse itself had been painted by a San Francisco artist. But Pedolzky had installed it and said he could undertake a similar piece for the Henderson library.
“I brought the idea to the foundation board and Shannon — a bunch of books with something painted on them,” Gibson said.
They liked the idea. But what was something iconic about Henderson that could be painted across the books?
“It couldn’t be the train (bridge) because it (the wall) is vertical,” he said. Then came the idea of portraying the Central Park fountain that’s topped by a female figure.
The library had an idea, and eventually the proposed art piece had a name: The Lady in the Park.
Gibson hired Pedolzky to create a mock-up, but it didn’t meet his and Sandefur’s vision. So Louisville abstract painter Kelly McCarthy was hired to do the actual painting while Pedolzky, as project manager, would be in charge of bolting books to panels and gluing the pages open to provide the blank canvas for McCarthy to paint on.
For McCarthy, it was a project of firsts: “It was the first project I’ve done that’s so very large,” she said, and the first time she had ever seen books used as a painting canvas or had to use scaffolding to paint.
Gibson and Sandefur wanted to ensure that some of the more than 100 books used for the piece had Henderson ties. They secured copies of two books by Henderson authors — “Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh: The Love Story Behind ‘Gone with the Wind” by Marianne Walker and “Henderson,” a book featuring vintage local postcards (including the original Central Park fountain on the cover) by Susie Thurman — as well as a copy of The Gleaner’s “Pictorial History of Henderson and Henderson County” and some Kentucky history books.
The Lady, measuring about 16 feet tall and eight feet wide, was installed at the library on Aug. 25 and unveiled at a ceremony on Aug. 27.
Gibson said the art piece “came within our budget” and was paid for privately by a grant from the Henderson Rotary Club.
Sandefur noted that the library “had a strong emphasis on the arts” from years of working withOVAL to display rotating exhibits of artwork, originally in the library’s rotunda but now in the Dick and Sheila Beaven Gallery
upstairs in the new addition.
Now, the library is home to what Gibson said is “probably” the largest piece of interior artwork in Henderson.
“It’s very eye-catching,” painter McCarthy said, “and how appropriate for a library” with its book theme.
Said Sandefur: “It fits in nicely.”