YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A collection of art books, many of them hard to find, amassed by the late Richard James Hanson of Cortland has become the foundation of an art library at Students Motivated by the Arts.
More than 650 of the instructional books were recently donated to Smarts, the free community art school in the Ohio One Building in downtown Youngstown. Most of the books are printed on heavy stock and are unavailable to borrow in the region, according to Becky Keck, president and founder of Smarts.
Hanson, who died last year at age 88, was an engineer at Packard Electric in Warren and an artist.
Though his collection of art books numbered close to 2,000, Smarts accepted a smaller amount. The volumes fill a small room at the school. Many of them include ancillary pages inserted by Hanson, with articles and notes on related topics.
Smarts teachers, staff and students can access the Richard James Hanson Library by using a digital cataloging system created by Michelle Kacir-Constantine, a volunteer.
“She put in over a hundred volunteer hours, cleaning and organizing the books and cataloging them in an online system,” Keck said.
Kacir-Constantine is the mother of a Smarts student and also a librarian.
Keck and the Smarts staff marked the book donation Dec. 5 with a ribbon-cutting that was attended by Hanson family members. The event was part of the school’s annual holiday open house, at which Smarts teaching artists and staff demonstrated their talent.
With a focus on underserved students in grades K-12, the nonprofit Smarts offers dozens of free classes in visual art, music, dance, theater and creative writing.
Smarts has eight full-time staff members plus 40 teaching artists that work in schools “to help them rebuild their arts programs,” Keck said.
It offered instruction to more than 6,000 students in the past year, both during and after regular school hours. It is offering 30 classes this semester, including new musical courses in cello and steel drums.
Pictured at top: Becky Keck, president and founder of Smarts.