Painting and relaxing together - Library of Akureyri

On Sunday, June 4th 2023, a watercolor event took place at The Municipal Library of Akureyri. The workshop was led by Jitka Hermankova who was born in Czechoslovakia and lives in Akureyri. In the past years, Jitka taught herself watercolor techniques, creating amongst other paintings a series of whales wearing traditional Icelandic wool sweaters, hereby linking her art to her work in whale watching in Akureyri. Jitka had already facilitated a series of watercolor workshops at Akureyri library that were attended by more people than the organizers expected. The idea to invite Jitka to organize another workshop thus came up immediately when the organizers of the project and Hrönn Björgvinsdóttir and Aija Burdikova, librarians at the public library of Akureyri, brainstormed ideas for events that might have the potential to serve as space of encounter for different groups of people, both migrants and non-migrants. 

Thus, on a sunny morning on June 4th at 10am a group of about 10 people got together at the Public Library of Akureyri to learn to paint with watercolor togethers. We spent about three hours together, being guided by Jitka and learning various techniques, trying to draw what we saw in front of but also from our imagination, chatting and having coffee and cookies, hereby quickly recognizing the necessity to be attentive and only clean the paint brushes in the dedicated glasses, if one wasn‘t intending to draw with coffee at least. At some points, a few participants went outside to pick a few spring flowers which would then serve as figurines for further artworks. It was such a calm morning that Jitka remarked our group had been the most quiet group that she has ever taught watercolor painting. The few chats that emerged were, however, noteworthy as participants chatted about the ongoing projects at the library in Akureyri and their reception by the public. A topic of conversation was for example the Freedge, a public fridge where people can bring and take leftover food to avoid food waste, which has been installed in Akureyri in 2022. Participants chatted about how some people weren’t sure whether this fridge was only for specific people, such as those in financial need, or indeed for everyone, which is the case. 

This event is only one of many recent developments happening at the The Municipal Library of Akureyri. The library has recently conducted research  to develop the strategic plan for 2023-2025. The research followed a design-thinking process, was conducted in collaboration with the Dokk1 library in Aarhus and consisted of interviews and surveys. Topics of the research were people’s experiences with and expectations of the libraries and the changes libraries as institutions are currently undergoing. Recent projects, such as a community garden initiated by Hrönn Björgvinsdóttir, librarian in Akureyri, and the freedge project show the changes from the library as a place solely dedicated to loaning and reading books to a community space. A few open questions remain to be tackled by the library within this process: While the majority of people seem to enjoy the development of the library towards a lively, community-space with events, there are a few that emphasize the value of the library as a place of solitude and quietness. Another question remaining is if and how networks between different libraries in Iceland can potentially be strengthened. After these interesting conversations and the flowery, calm, Sunday morning, it is clear that it will be very exciting to follow these upcoming developments.

efniviður í vatnslitamálun

Further information
Lara Hoffmann
Project manager and researcher