Art in the library: Inspiring empathy, connection

EveryLibrary’s 2019 Artist in Residence VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia (center), with Librarian Laura Damon-Moore (left) and EveryLibrary Founder John Chrastka (right), at the October 20 Oak Park opening of “Community on a Shelf.”

In November, two traveling art exhibits that inspire empathy and connection are on display at the Main Library. When Home Won’t Let You Stay, in the Idea Box, shares stories and portraits of refugees. Community on a Shelf, in the Lobby Community Engagement Space, explores the human side of mental illness, community support, and libraries.

When Home Won’t Let You Stay

This multimedia art experience focuses on reclaiming our empathetic imagination toward displaced people. Watch WTTW’s Chicago Tonight interview with the documentary artist »

Idea Box: Portraits on display

No registration necessary. The traveling exhibition is the product of documentary artist James A. Bowey. He traveled the country collecting the stories and photos of refugees living in America. These penetrating portraits, alongside first-person accounts presented as found poems, share the devastating stories of violence and loss that permeate the refugee experience. The exhibit challenges us to consider our role in building supportive and welcoming communities for refugees around the world.

Nov. 20: Hear from the artist, community narrators

Join your neighbors, community narrators, musicians, and the artist on Wednesday, November 20, at 7 pm in the Main Library Veterans Room. As part of this exhibition, Bowey will lead a live community event to consider the experiences of refugees and our responses to the needs of displaced people around the world. Register now.

Accompanied by live music and narrators from the community, Bowey will present more photographs, stories, and reflections from When Home Won’t Let You Stay, then lead a community conversation about how current refugee policies and attitudes reflect the state of the empathetic imagination in our civic life. Want to be an active part of this event? We are seeking 12 community narrators to read on November 20. If interested, email us at

Community on a Shelf: Exploring the Human Side of Mental Illness

VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia (pictured at the top of this page) is a visual artist, author, poet, and facilitator. She has served as a trauma-informed facilitator teaching art in domestic violence shelters and Chicago high schools. As part of her 2019 EveryLibrary Artist in Residence project, she has an exhibit on display in the Main Library Lobby Community Engagement Space through November.

Community on a Shelf: Exploring the Human Side of Mental Illness features pieces that came from her time of personal grief, depression, and anxiety after the loss of her youngest brother by suicide. “I feel very blessed to share my voice and vulnerability in an honest way,” she tells us. See more of her work »

The Main Library is home to one of Illinois’ largest public art collections, and features contemporary American art designed to engage community with works that are challenging, intriguing, and enduring. Learn about and see more of the library’s permanent art collection »

In November, the Main Library Gallery features political cartoons by Oak Park illustrator Keith Taylor.