In 1954, Newbery award winning author and illustrator Armstrong Sperry commemorated the opening of the Ferndale Public Library’s new building with the donation of an original painting. Almost 60 years later, it has been rediscovered by Pat Dengate of the Library Board of Trustees.
The painting has recently been reframed by the library’s newly formed Arts and Exhibition Committee, established by the library board to promote the visual arts at the library.
Now hanging in the Kid’s Corner, the bold colors and flat, stylized shapes in Armstrong Sperry’s painting coordinate beautifully with the room’s vibrant atmosphere. It hangs to the left of the Reference Desk, where it can, again, be enjoyed by generations of Ferndale readers.
“I came across the painting in one of the upstairs storage rooms,” Dengate says. “The crudely-made label taped onto the mat said it was by Armstrong Sperry, a name I recognized immediately. When they were young, I’d bought for my children one of his books. The glass was so filthy, it was hard to be sure at first if it was an original work, instead of a reproduction. This is not only the work of an important author and illustrator from the mid-20th Century, but also an important part of the history of the library.”
The painting—created as an illustration for The Story of Hiawatha–is gouache on illustration board. Room was left in the lower right corner for text, which was written by Allen Chaffee as a retelling of the famous Longfellow poem. Published in 1951, The Story of Hiawathafeatures Sperry’s illustrations throughout and is currently out of print, though two copies remain in circulation at the Ferndale Public Library. The first two pages of the story feature Sperry’s painting.
“As far back as I can remember, I scribbled and drew pictures” Armstrong Sperry once said in an interview. From the 1940s through the1960s, he was a well-known author, writing more than 25 books and illustrating countless more. His deep love of the sea and adventure inspired his book Call It Couragewhich won the 1941 Newbery.
The Ferndale Public Library promotes lifelong learning and personal development for diverse audiences of all ages by providing collections and services that educate, inform, enrich, and entertain. The Library supports civic engagement and serves as a public commons where a diverse Ferndale community connects and shares ideas. It is dedicated to the principles of intellectual freedom and community service.
Source: Ferndale Public Library