What Does “Free to the People” Mean to You? Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Celebrates 125th Anniversary with Commemorative Library Cards
The Library commissioned four Pittsburgh artists to create new library card designs based on the question: “What does free to the people mean to you?”
In 1895, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) opened its doors as one of the first public libraries to give all people free access to art, music and literature – a pioneering concept at the time. In 2020, the Library asked four highly esteemed Pittsburgh artists to design a library card based on their interpretation of “What does free to the people mean to you?” Takara Canty, Cue Perry, D.S. Kinsel and Janel Young rose to the challenge in creating new, vibrant library cards now available to new and existing library card holders.
Canty, 36, of Garfield Heights is a classically trained visual artist who grew her talent from watching her mother paint pictures in watercolor and acrylic. Inspired by her mom and prominent artists like Frida Kahlo, she evolved into having an appreciation for art and followed her passion. After realizing that working in a main-stream studio art class environment was not for her, she decided to teach at-risk kids art by providing them with nontraditional art projects in art class. She has been professionally teaching at-risk youth k-12 grade for more than 10 years. In her spare time, Canty likes to paint, tattoo, weld, sculpt, sew, draw and create memorable pieces.
“Completing a compelling fresh, piece of artwork is the only thing that satisfies this thirst to create,” Canty said. “Unapologetically not caring if it is beautiful but allowing an outpour of emotion in color and substance to create an existence of a story that first was cultivated through my mind.”
Pittsburgh Northside native Cue Perry has been pursuing a career in the arts his entire life. After years of studying graphic design at both Brashear High School and the University of Pittsburgh, Perry decided to change his major and pursue other ventures until he turned 30-years-old. He is known for his unconventional art style and humor, which is translated throughout his artwork. Perry has sold nearly 2,000 original paintings worldwide and has been nominated by Pittsburgh City Paper for best local visual artist four years in a row.
“I always try to portray and express positivity,” Perry said. “I feel like this project exudes that. It’s messy. It’s wild. It’s creative. It is all the things, in my opinion, that embodies love. Love is free.”
Kinsel, an award-winning entrepreneur and cultural agitator, expresses himself through many artforms. His art themes focus on space keeping, urban tradition, hip-hop, informalism and cultural re-appropriation. In addition to his art, he also co-founded BOOM Concepts, an inspirational hub devoted to the advancement of black and brown artists representing marginalized communities. Kinsel has received numerous awards, including the Pittsburgh Courier Fab 40, Pittsburgh Magazine PUMP 40 Under 40, Pgh Tech Council Creative of The Year, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s “Top Ten People to Meet in 2016” and the Incline’s “Who’s Next” for 2018.
“I was really inspired by the motto “Free to the People” and wanted to find an intentional intersection for the commission and my Nothing But Love series,” said Kinsel. “I have been exploring love songs and pulling lyrics from different songs to express different ways in which love can be expressed. I really connected to the idea of ‘Free to the People’ and how CLP’s history offering free art, music, and literature was a true expression of love. I believe theLlibrary allows for exploration of knowledge, culture and love by being ‘Free To The People’. After researching different love song lyrics, I landed on the lyric ‘everybody come together (love is free)’ from the song Love Is Free by Sheryl Crow. Free knowledge, free culture, and free love is a reason for folks to come together and the library is the perfect place for that action to happen.”
Young, a Pittsburgh native, painter and muralist, is on a mission to inspire through creativity and play. Prior to pursuing art full-time, Young studied business marketing at Penn State University and relocated to New York City to work in public relations. After taking the leap to practice art full-time in NYC, Young went back to her childhood neighborhood, Beltzhoover, to install her largest led mural to date — The Home Court Advantage Project. The city awarded her for her community-centered efforts, making Oct. 23, 2019, Janel Young Day in Pittsburgh. Young’s latest public works in Pittsburgh include the reworked Black Girl Magic “Masked” series and her first curated project, New Space Spheres. In NYC, Young was selected to exhibit in the “Black Lives to the Front” art showcase during the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament. Most recently, Young became the first artist ever commissioned to design Yahoo!’s Black History Month logo in February 2021.
“When I thought about the theme ‘free to the people’, immediately, my mind went to my experience reading, especially when I was younger,” Young said. “Growing up with my mom being a reading specialist, I always felt like reading books and stories were a form of liberation; an escape, so I wanted to show the transition to ‘freeing the people’ through literature.”
How to obtain a commemorative 125th anniversary card
Library cards remain free to the public.
* Pennsylvania residents (13 years of age and over) may opt for one of the four commemorative library cards while supplies last. Cards may be acquired in-person at any Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location or through the Library’s curbside service. Residents 12 years if age and under must register with an adult caretaker who agrees to assume responsibility for the card.
* To receive a commemorative card via curbside pickup patrons should either a) call their preferred pickup location ahead, register, and schedule a pickup time; or b) arrive at their preferred CLP branch and register over the phone and staff will deliver an active card in the moment.
* Patrons will be asked for ID – acceptable forms of ID are available on the Library’s website. Staff will not physically handle IDs.
* If a patron has an existing library card (physical or online), their new card will have a different barcode number. The patron will be asked to turn in their old, deactivated card when they pick up a new one. Changing the barcode does not alter existing account information, checkouts, or balances.
Real-time assistance is available from Library staff 7 days a week. To access library services call 412.622.3114, chat using the “How can we help?” icon the Library’s website, or text 412.775.3900.