Artists At PPL

PPL has a wealth of resources for artists looking for inspiration, source material, or research support.

Whether you’re writing a historical play or designing a poster, we have something for you! Explore this section to learn more about upcoming opportunities, read about a selection of past projects and collaborations, and find ways that our collections can support your own creative pursuits.

Funded Opportunities

PPL’s annual Creative Fellowship, founded in 2014, provides an opportunity for a local artist to create new work based upon, utilizing, or inspired by materials in and images from our Special Collections. The Creative Fellowship lasts 6-8 months, coinciding in topic and timing with the Library’s annual exhibition and program series. Each year’s fellowship focuses on artists working in a specified discipline, rotating between visual art, performance, writing, and music/sound on a four-year cycle.

The Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection was opened to the public in 1937, and Updike intended it to be a source of learning and inspiration to printers with a desire to elevate their craft through the study of the history of printing. The Updike Prize for Student Type Design was created in the same spirit, rewarding undergraduate and graduate students who make use of the Updike Collection in their creation of a new typeface or typeface family.

Use Our Collections

The Library is home to over 10,000 linear feet of historic books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, maps and other artifacts representing over four thousand years of human history and culture from around the world. We believe that those artifacts can enrich anyone’s life and our mission is to make sure everyone has a chance to access them. Whether you're interested in doing research, bringing in a class or tour, or just stopping by to see interesting stuff, we look forward to your visit.

Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit is a comic book conceived of and printed by the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, working in collaboration with artist Jeremy Ferris, who created the storyline, illustrations, and text. Many of our creative researchers are intimidated by the process of finding things in our Special Collections. This comic book was developed as a guide to demystify archival research for artists and other makers. We’re hoping that this comic book can be a bridge helping artists and archivists to find each other and get down to the fun and messy work of research!

PPL’s collections are full of useful materials for artists and designers, from how-to books that you can check out with your library card to historical collections that you can use on-site. We also have online databases, a makerspace with classes and tools, a piano practice room, and a tool library.

The front cover of The Providence Sunday Wipeout Comics Newspaper, produced by Walker Mettling as pat of his creative fellowship
type specimen page

Past Projects

PPL’s Special Collections support artists developing projects, performances, and exhibitions. We also plan and host events featuring local artists who have created new work incorporating our collections. Find links below documenting some past projects, or click here to see select artists’ work based on Special Collections research. Have an idea for a project or performance? Get in touch!

Iterations was an exhibit on display during the summer of 2015, featuring 20th century pochoir-printed pattern books alongside modern creations by local artists.

Pochoir is a many-layered stenciling process that produces extremely vivid and dimensional prints; it was particularly popular in late 19th and early 20th century Paris, and was used for fashion plates, interior design illustrations, architectural prints, and pattern and motif books like the ones featured in Iterations.

The Whale Guitar is a one-of-a-kind, hand-made electric guitar. Details of its design were inspired by items in the Library's Nicholson Whaling Collection. The guitar was on display at the Library in the spring of 2014; the exhibition opening featured a discussion by the artists who designed and built the guitar and performances by local musicians.

The Wonder Show was an ongoing project in Providence that presented local stories through modern reinterpretations of magic lantern shows, a projection format that entertained and educated audiences before the dawn of cinema.