By Karen Fasimpaur
Artists in rural Cochise County communities are being offered a public showcase for their work, thanks to a project that also promotes reading among children and adults.
Since its launch in late October last year, more than 2,000 books have been distributed through Free Book Boxes and placed in seven locations by the Cochise County Library District. The goal is to eventually have 10 boxes.
Each box holds about 150 books and has been decorated by local adult or student artists, allowing them to present their talents to the general public.
“Our county has so many talented people and we were thrilled to be able to tap into this to make our boxes beautiful as well as functional,” said Cochise County Library District Director Amadee Ricketts. “The boxes provide an opportunity to use artwork to beautify and attract people to the areas where they are installed.”
To date, boxes have been placed in Whetstone, Palominas, Naco, McNeal, Double Adobe, San Simon, and Dragoon. The newest book box will be installed in St. David later this month.
As part of the project, Cochise County recruited local artists to paint the boxes, with each taking their own approach.
“I was inspired by how books open up new worlds to us,” said Ruthe Schoder-Ehri, who painted the McNeal box. “I have been enchanted by the butterflies in our yard and when we are out in nature, so these all came together as I designed the book box.”
For St. David artist Zachary Billings the project was about community relationships.
“We figured that by getting involved, we would get more exposure and inherit real live connections with others involved in the artist community,” he said. “To encourage and inspire one another’s talents and contribute beauty and culture into our community, we believe, is the ultimate participation process.”
The box in Palominas was painted by first graders at Coronado Elementary School, under the guidance of teacher Marissa Herrera, and the boxes in Double Adobe and San Simon were decorated by high school students.
The boxes are regularly restocked by the Library District and while readers are welcome to return their books, it is not required. Donations of books are also accepted.
The Free Book Box project is supported by the Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
For more information visit tinyurl.com/cochisebookboxes
Free Book Box locations:
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