Painting a new future for the UHS library

Creative Convergence Hovering above the library’s fiction collection, a recently-painted mural visualizes fantastical characters and imagined phenomena. (Ava Welsh)

Staff Writer

“I love including art in the library because I think it makes people feel like they are part of the community, a part of the school,” said Mr. Dominic Fratantaro (Library).
Mr. Frat hates empty walls. So you can imagine his horror when he first joined UNI’s staff and found the library walls blank and barren.

Now, years later, the room is filled with murals done by students for each yearbook theme. This year, Fratantaro is trying to get even more art on his walls.

His plan of attack? An Artist-in-Residency Program. With the help of Ms. Dana Kramer (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) and Ms. Hali Kessler (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.), Fratantaro hopes to cultivate UNI artists and give them large platforms to share their visions with.

Room for new art has been made outside the library with three wooden boards that will work as canvases. Frat’s plan is to have different art featured monthly.

The only thing he needs now is artists with a vision.

“I want social and political activism, something inspiring that makes people think and be excited about learning more, with the library being a part of that,” said Mr. Frat.

Ms. Kramer agrees, adding that “art that’s maybe more socially or politically relevant instead of something kind of random and pretty” would be something she’s looking for.

Fratantaro doesn’t want inexperience to stop people from joining in on the project.

He knows every artist has strengths and weaknesses: “Some students are good at just sketching but they are not good at painting, so it’s also trying to find and combine students.”

Mural in Action Inspired by nonfiction, this year’s mural is still a work in progress, but its outline has already been drawn out. (Ava Welsh)

The first student to be involved this year is Annabelle Berghof (So.), who, for the past two months, has been working on a mural covering the wall inside the library.

Berghof says of her ongoing project, “I feel really great about this opportunity. It’s not something that every school does. I think that the fact that Mr. Frat is such a patron of the arts is really cool and I like that he is making this library really feel like it’s the students own library and we have a hand in what happens to it.”

Fratantaro was blown away by the sketch Berghof had done and made room in the library for her nonfiction-works-inspired mural.

The supplies are all paid for by funding that Fratantaro receives through the PTSA and also from Kramer’s service-learning funding.

Fratantaro says he hopes to make all the library furniture mobile to make more room for art projects.
The changes are all to create a comfortable space that students want to be in. Fratantaro knows the library doesn’t have trouble getting patrons saying that “some libraries struggle to get patrons to come in, but I don’t think we struggle with that. For me, I plan on being here for the rest of my life, so I like to work at a place that’s really cool.”

In the years to come, it seems the library has plans to just keep getting cooler. The library is offered as a space for many types of art, not just murals. It also hosts the annual Arts Core show and student concerts.

Over the years, the space has become not only a place for students to learn, but also a space for them to foster new talents by participating in an ever-broadening spectrum of activities.

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