Sopris Sun

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The library’s “Pillars of Light:” A community work of art

By Nicolette Toussaint

Sopris Sun Correspondent

Along the north side of the new Carbondale Branch Library are seven pillars decorated with art glass — a creation designed by local glass artist Shannon Muse, but created by more than 20 hands and more than 100 minds.

The work of art, which is called “Pillars of Light/Pilars de Luz,” contains more than 5,000 pieces of recycled glass along with Swarovski crystals and metallic-sheened dichroic glass. Embedded among the pieces of glass are quotes contained in tiles made of opalescent iridized glass.

“I couldn’t have done this without the interns,” said Muse. “They put countless hours into this project.” At the library dedication last Saturday, Muse thanked her volunteers by giving them glass hands hung on thong necklaces.

In keeping with the “green” nature of many materials in the library, the clear, sage-colored background glass was made from broken shower doors and windows. Muse’s volunteer interns broke the tempered glass, which separates into chunks, and then melted those pieces in a kiln to remove the sharp edges. They individually placed more than 5,000 pieces of this “field glass” by hand.

Muse, who works out of her Paradise Art Glass studio on Sopris Avenue across the street from the library, earned a commission to create the pillars by winning a community competition, knowing that money had not yet been raised through donations to pay for the project. It was, she says, an act of faith to begin the project hoping that money for materials would appear.

Community activist and public art promoter Sue Edelstein raised the funds and Muse completed “Pillars of Light” earlier in the summer. Donors contributed $7,500 per pillar or in some cases split the cost of a pillar.

The money was used, among other things, to buy art glass and crystals from a collection in Denver. Pale turquoise, blue and pink rivulets of art glass course through the field glass, looking like rivers running down from snowcapped peaks through the valley. Muse explains that the streams of colored art glass symbolize knowledge flowing from books to minds.

Garfield County Libraries and Muse invited community members to submit the quotes that adorn the text panels on the pillars, and local citizens responded enthusiastically. A pillar map available from the library lists more than 100 donors for the quotes.

The sayings on the pillars range from quirky to sublime:

• From poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

• Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

• Near the Albert Einstein quote is the number 741.59, which is the Dewey Decimal designation for comic books and graphic novels.

• A Groucho Marx quote reads: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Shannon Muse wrapped the seven support pillars on the new Carbondale Branch Library’s north side with glass embedded with quotes submitted by community members. One quote comes from baseball great Yogi Berra and says “When you come to a fork in the middle of the road, take it.”