One of the first things you learn while working at Northside UP is just how vibrant the Northside really is. There’s an energy in this office and throughout the neighborhood that inspires you to look at things differently—suddenly every empty storefront is an opportunity for anything new, necessary, and original. This buzz of creativity is not lost upon White Branch Library, a vessel of the community that serves patrons but also reflects their needs and interests. “Libraries have to bring in the community,” Aran West, Adult Services Librarian at White Branch explains. She believes in libraries as community spaces that reflect the needs and interests of their patrons, and she believes that exhibiting local art at the library helps achieve this. In fact, art is prominent in the Northside in many ways: as the backdrop and subject for art (à la Sarah Averill’s Lodi Laundromat Project), as the expression of the lives and ideas of its residents (à la The 7 Days Gallery), and as the pursuit of various Northsiders, such as Norma Yennock.
Norma is a pastel artist who lives on the Northside. The library will exhibit her work throughout February and March, with an artist’s reception on February 7th from 5 PM-7 PM. Norma is a long-time patron of the library who one day told Aran, “I have my art, it’s in my car.” When she brought in her pieces, Aran thought they were so colorful and fun she gushed, “We can show them here. It’ll brighten up the library.”
And they are fun. Norma clarifies, “I don’t have an artist’s statement. The main idea is fun. It’s all about color.” Terry Lacey, Norma’s artist friend and “partner in crime,” explained, “I see an apple and it’s red. She colors it purple, green, yellow, and it works.” While Norma prefers to do portraits, she’s only sketched a few: “you don’t get many people,” she says, explaining that her niece can’t sit still for five minutes. She sketches mostly still lifes during the afternoons once a week when she teams up with Terry to sketch. Norma makes scrambled eggs and they find objects around the house and in the backyard to draw. “I’ll say, ‘I’ve got an avocado, wanna do that?’” laughs Norma. One lucky day a young girl was walking past the house and Norma and Terry sketched her while she posed for a short time.
“I’m the Northside,” Norma says proudly. She grew up in this area, attended Our Lady of Pompeii as a child, and now continues to reside here. “I went around the world,” she goes on, “They offered me a job in D.C. and I said, ‘No, I gotta go home.’” Norma worked as a teacher for fifth and sixth grade, but has been interested in art her whole life. In the 20’s her uncle was an artist. Everyone considered him a “hippie” and he was “not somebody admired.” In order to deter her eight children from the visual arts, Norma’s mother enrolled her children in violin and piano lessons, which Norma dropped. “My liking art was not appreciated. I’d copy pictures and hide them.”
Now Norma is able to enjoy her art and display it openly. Her nieces and grandnieces own much of her artwork. Her exhibit at White Branch Library is her first, and while she’s incredibly humble about it, there is a proud energy that slowly beats underneath (after all, she is the Northside).
Norma’s artwork is the second exhibit at the library that Aran has organized. She beams when she talks about art in the library and hopes to continue showcasing more local artists.
There will be light refreshments at the artist’s reception. Norma’s work will be on display in the Adult section of the library for February and March.