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Greensboro artists create little free libraries on the Downtown Greenway

Greensboro artists create little free libraries on the Downtown Greenway

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GREENSBORO — Pedestrians have a new reason to walk the developing Downtown Greenway.

At three locations, they can leave a book or take one for free. 

Three spots along the 4-mile recreational loop around center city now offer a Little Free Library.

Local artist Porter Halyburton designed, crafted and donated each wood box with a plexiglass door. 

Visual artist and muralist Darlene McClinton painted each with designs that fit their locations.

They stand on wooden posts at Woven Works Park at Lindsay Street and Murrow Boulevard, Meeting Place at the Tradition Cornerstone at Smith and Prescott streets, and on Bragg Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

"We see the Little Free Libraries as an additional way to engage the public with the Downtown Greenway and to encourage people to get in the habit of exploring and seeing this as a real asset for the whole community," said Dabney Sanders, Greenway project manager.

Already, several people have donated books for each.

"We hope it’s a way that the neighborhoods will get in the habit of coming by and taking a book and maybe returning a book they have read."

Sanders works for Action Greensboro, an arm of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce which has joined with the city to create the paved biking and walking route lined with landscaping and art.

The $43 million greenway project, financed with public and private money, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Three miles are now complete, except for bridge repair work on Murrow Boulevard as it crosses Church Street and the railroad tracks, Sanders said.

The final mile is expected to be put out for bid in June.

It already displays 22 completed works of art, said Laura Lorenz, Downtown Greenway campaign manager.

The three Little Free Libraries are among them.

They join what has been called the world's largest book-sharing movement.

More than 90,000 public book exchanges are registered with the Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization and branded as Little Free Libraries. It aims to increase access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

They have inspired similar movements such as Little Free Pantries for food.

Little Free Libraries have spread throughout the Piedmont Triad.

The New Africa Business and Cultural Center will open theirs with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at 3015 E. Bessemer Ave.

Downtown Greenway organizers hope to find a Girl Scout Troop to help maintain theirs.

To make those on the Downtown Greenway, Sanders recruited Halyburton, her father.

Now 80, Halyburton spent seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He retired after teaching for 28 years at the Naval War College in Rhode Island.

He and his wife, Marty, now live at Well-Spring retirement community, where Halyburton's artist talents attracted him to its woodworking shop.

He added woodworking to his interests in making pottery and writing. He sells his pottery in the shop at GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art.

"I love working with my hands," he said. "I find it mostly very relaxing, centering."

As he looked for other projects, "I mentioned that we were looking for these (Little Free Libraries) and he knocked them out in pretty short order," Sanders said.

"It was fun for us to do something together and use these new-found skills for the greenway," she said.

Sanders commissioned McClinton to paint them.

McClinton recently led a team of artists that repainted bridge supports at Morehead Park on Spring Garden Street along the Downtown Greenway.

In addition to her work as an artist, she serves as grants manager for ArtsGreensboro, teaches at N.C. A&T and co-founded The Artist Bloc, an art supply store and coffee shop. 

At each location, McClinton turned to her surroundings for inspiration.

At Woven Works Park, she said, "I wanted this piece to reflect this area and the artwork that is already here."

She painted the little library with a black background, then painted a woven pattern on top, with colors similar to the towering Revolution Cone nearby. The exterior house paint that she used will withstand the weather, she said.

Inside, visitors can find such titles as "Eat This, Not That for Kids," the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angela's Ashes," John Grisham's "The Street Lawyer," "The Christmas Shoes" and "Friendship Cake." 

At Meeting Place, the Tradition Cornerstone with the surrounding organic orchard at Smith and Prescott streets, McClinton painted the library orange, with a flower in black and white on the top and back.

When the sun shines through the site's artistic, concrete and steel tent-like structure, "it reflects on the ground," McClinton said. "I wanted to kind of play off that."

The library houses books such as Judy Blume's young adult novel "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," a parenting book and several children's books. 

In the Ole Asheboro neighborhood, McClinton painted triangular shapes on the library at Bragg Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Some shapes form birds to symbolize freedom, she said. 

Her design drew influences from the nearby steel sculptures of artist Vandorn Hinnant, and the Freedom Cornerstone soon to be created at Murrow and East Gate City boulevards.

Cassie Bustamante dropped off several books there, as part of O. Henry magazine's efforts to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Many were gone within a day, "which is really nice," Bustamante said as she added a coffee shop gift card on Wednesday morning.

Sanders appreciates the interest.

"We see it as a great way to engage the community in curiosity and learning and being outdoors and leading healthy, active lives," Sanders said. 

Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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