JML50 - 50 Years of the Jefferson Market Library


Jefferson Market Library

FREE Opening Reception, Thursday November 16th, 8-10pm.
Second floor reading room, Jefferson Market Library
Free to attend - open to all. No RSVP required 

The New York Public Library’s Jefferson Market branch celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Two years in the making, British artist Mark John Smith presents a series of new, immersive public works of art, exploring the Library’s, until now, largely unseen archive of historic and intimate communications with its public, dating back over a century.

This November, Jefferson Market Library is delighted to unveil the centerpiece of JML50: a bespoke, large format, three story 360-degree print, adorning the walls of the Library’s second floor Gothic reading room. Documents recording pledges by children obtaining their first ever library cards in 1967, letters of adoration, complaints and even the flicker of love between patrons - all feature in this uniquely site-specific insight into the complex tapestry of relationships formed during its 50 years rooted here in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Building on a legacy of activism and protest, Jefferson Market Library, now a landmarked building, stands today as a testament to the power of collaborative working and the pursuit of a common goal - namely to ensure that all have access to the tools and resources required to sustain lifelong learning and creative engagement. The Jefferson Market building, saved twice by the public once from demolition in the 1960s and then again from closure as a library in the 1970s, stands as a monument to culture and the very communities that helped preserve it.

Drawing from his experience leading cultural engagement strategies in the UK, namely for the British Broadcasting Corporation, London 2012 Olympics, the Cultural Olympiad and NYC-based arts collective Franklin Collective, artist Mark John Smith has employed a series of events and happenings designed to foster an engagement in the upcoming anniversary celebrations that offer unique curatorial control of the project to the very individuals that it honors - the public and patrons of the New York Public Library and the Greenwich Village community. Working collaboratively with Library Manager Frank Collerius, Mark has been an artist-in-residence at Jefferson Market Library for the past year. During this time, he has witnessed and participated in some of the Library’s innermost workings, involving its staff and daily operations to highlight the network as sculpture present within this very human institution.

“During my time at Jefferson Market Library, I have been struck by the vast level of diversity amongst the library’s users and patrons. The library, I believe, is the most reflexive public service available - it has terrific adaptability. Through its staff, it responds with immediacy to the changing needs of the public - always offering support, information and a place of safety. What’s remarkable here is the fact that it is the Village who of course saved this space - pre landmarks. This is a library for the people by the people - a place deeply rooted in this fantastically vocal, politically active and critically engaged community.

This new work, titled JML50, uses the lens of fine art to offer a new perspective on the perception of what a library can and indeed should be - given the social, political and economic circumstances both here in the USA and abroad. In this new work, we are honoring the past whilst looking toward the future.”

Mark John Smith Artist

JML50 is a year long celebration, one designed to engage the many and diverse demographics accommodated by the Library in the pursuit of fostering lifelong learning, engagement and a continual commitment to self discovery, collaboration and creativity.

In preparation for the project’s launch in November, Mark and Frank offered an unprecedented level of transparency to the Library’s history by engaging the local community in the discovery of Jefferson Market Library’s archive though seminars, workshops, interactive street fair events and artist talks. As the project continues to evolve, so too does the level of programming, with the introduction of a rotating series of curated events pertaining to the discovery and discussion of what a library is and what it can become.

Find out more on social media @jefferson_market_library #JML50