That guy painting the switchbox in front of the Central Library is the wonderful Jef Czekaj.
Jef is a cartoonist, children’s book author and illustrator, and musician who lives and works right here in Somerville.
His comic, Grampa and Julie: Shark Hunters, ran in Nickelodeon Magazine for more than 10 years. A collection of the first three years of the comic was published with the help of a Xeric Foundation Grant and distributed by Top Shelf.
Jef has illustrated 3 books, and written and illustrated 3 picture books and one graphic novel. His books, Hip and Hop, Don’t Stop!, Cat Secrets, and The Circulatory Story, were all chosen as Junior Library Guild selections. Cat Secrets was a finalist in GoodReads Best Books of 2011.
At the moment, Jef is also cold (you would be too if you were painting outside in December!) so if you see him out there, stop by and offer a warm hello. Thanks for brightening up our neighborhood, Jef!
This switchbox project is supported by the Friends of the Somerville Public Library and the Somerville Arts Council.
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The kickoff for Somerville Reads is this Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the East Branch Library. There will be lots to see and do – a dance performance, henna art, music, yummy food – but one of the things we’re most excited about is the communal art project we have planned.
We’re going to work together to create a paper immigration “quilt” that will tell the stories of the people who make up our City. Everyone is invited to make a square – or more than one – to add to the quilt. Above are a few examples to inspire you. The one on the right represents the Ganguli family, the protagonists of this year’s Somerville Reads book, The Namesake. The one on the left shows some of my own ancestors. We’ll supply all of the materials you need, but if you’d like to include personal items – photos, maps, documents – please bring them along. Make sure the things you use are copies (we have a copy machine at the East Branch if you need it) because we won’t be able to return them. They’ll become part of the quilt which will be displayed at all Library locations over the coming weeks.
We hope you’ll add your own family’s immigrant story to the quilt – the more the better! I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
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Many patrons ask about the frieze that runs along the interior wall of the main reading room. It’s a reproduction of one of the friezes that adorned the Parthenon, a temple built in Athens between 447 and 432 B.C. The temple was dedicated to the worship of Athena (the city’s patron deity) and the frieze is believed to depict the Panathenaic procession, which took place annually in the goddess’s honor.
But the fact that the frieze is colored gives some people pause. After all, most people think that Ancient Greek sculptures were white. Actually archaeologists and scholars have long known that the Greeks painted their buildings and sculptures: faint traces of color linger on some artifacts; there are also references to the colors on statues in Ancient Greek writings.
Of course 2,600 year-old-paint residue and written references aren’t enough to tell us what the fully painted sculptures actually looked like, so the colors on our frieze are guesses based on the color scheme of a reproduction of the Parthenon that once stood in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But in recent years German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has been using ultraviolet light to examine the faint traces of paint on Ancient Greek sculptures (traces often not visible to the naked eye) and determine the materials used in making the pigments. And to illustrate his findings he created copies of Ancient Greek (and Roman) statues and painted them using the pigment combinations he’s found in his investigations. The results are radically different from the austere sculptures we see in museums (and from the subdued hues of our own frieze):
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