There is museum-quality artwork in Chicago that’s free for anyone to see.
The Legler Regional Library, which opened in 1920 in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, was the city’s first regional library. Now, the space has been renovated and one of its newest features is a resident artist.
“I am Haitian-American, a very proud Haitian-American visual artist, very much interested in my culture, food, as well as art practices that span from painting to printmaking,” said artist Alexandra Antoine.
Antoine says she makes work based on what she knowns and has experienced.
“So that comes from ancestors who have obviously gone on but then also current day family members who are still living now, travel that I’ve taken throughout the African diaspora, vibrant colors,” Antoine said. “Growing up I saw Haitian artwork in my house, that was the first art I ever saw before I got to Art History I and II in college so that’s what I show, is the vibrancy and the joy that I know.”
The residency gives the Miami-born artist a small studio in the library.
Antoine has filled it with works by artists she admires and her own works – paintings with hand-sewn beaded sequins and collages that feature a lot of food. She considers the culinary world her other art form of interest.
“I consider every woman in my family a chef, so whether they went to school for it or not, they are what I call a chef, and a lot of people interested in food, especially me,” Antoine said.
She also volunteers in the neighborhood.
“Not just ‘How can I volunteer here so two weeks down the line I can ask you for something,’ but really, like, how do we build this connection? Because I also live in the neighborhood,” she said.
Antoine will be at the library for two years, said Shilo Jefferson, who oversees Legler Regional Library.
Nancy Villafranca-Guzman of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events said Antoine is uniquely suited to the post.
“She was born for this. She’s here as an artist,” said Villafranca-Guzman. “She’s here to create work, but she’s here to work and connect with people as well, and I’m so excited that she gets to weave in her culture and her heritage and her passions.”
Antoine will be the artist-in-residence at Legler Regional Library through the end of next year. The library is located at 115 S. Pulaski Road.