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One For The Books

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Nearly 100 people gathered at Monument Circle on Aug. 27th for the big reveal of the biggest installation of The Public Collection lending library project. Gecko green and towering, Monument by Brian McCutcheon spans 80 feet long and 14 feet high with rotating bookshelves on its columns.

Attendees and onlookers of the launch event learned this book-share station is one of eight unique installments around the city that encourages everyone to borrow books and enjoy the sculptures that house them. But what people didn't know -- couldn't possibly know -- was what the project really means to its creator, Rachel Simon.

Monument, 2015 by Brian McCutcheon on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle (in front of Anthem) invites downtown visitors to share a good read. - COURTESY OF WELL DONE MARKETING
  • Courtesy of Well Done Marketing
  • Monument, 2015 by Brian McCutcheon on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle (in front of Anthem) invites downtown visitors to share a good read.

Aside from the artists, philanthropists and library folks who collaborated on its development, at the heart of the project lives a family that loves books and loves each other through and because of books.

Rachel Simon's interest in art also began at an early age.  - COURTESY OF RACHEL SIMON
  • Courtesy of Rachel Simon
  • Rachel Simon's interest in art also began at an early age.

"I remember growing up and my dad always having a book under his arm and books all around where he sat," she says, recalling times when her mother tried building bookshelves and creating other ways to organize her dad's ever-growing collection of good reads.

Simon says they'd practically have side tables from his stacks of books flanking the ends of the couch. "We were tripping over them. And he'd be reading all of them," she says.

Her father, of course, is Herbert "Herb" Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers and Simon Property Group.

Simon says she and her siblings grew up with great affection for literature, thanks to her parents. It's a love she shares now with her child, and, in a very public and meaningful way, with Indianapolis and the people who live here.

As the mother of a 4-year-old and the adult daughter of an insatiable book-loving father, Simon becomes passionate when talking about literacy. Because when she speaks of reading, she thinks of love -- the love of books and her family.

Table of Contents by Stuart Hyatt and Shimizu + Coggeshall Architects gives the vulnerable residents at Horizon House a place to socialize and read. - COURTESY OF WELL DONE MARKETING
  • Courtesy of Well Done Marketing
  • Table of Contents by Stuart Hyatt and Shimizu + Coggeshall Architects gives the vulnerable residents at Horizon House a place to socialize and read.

"I have a young daughter, and she has the most voracious appetite for books. She'd rather have them than toys," says Simon. "I get emotional just thinking about it. To watch the last few years and to see all that she's gained from books and the adventures she and I have had together through books. They teach children so much ... about emotions and expression. "

Simon's voice softens as she remembers her daughter's tiny fingers learning to turn the chunky pages of picture books before she was even stepping one wobbly foot in front of the other.

And she recounts her daughter saying, "Now I'm going to read to you," and then -- amazingly -- reciting her favorite stories not long after learning to talk. Simon wants to help other parents share that joy of reading with their children.

"I want that for every child, and if the lending libraries can help get a book into another child's hands, and help a mom to be able to do this for her kids, I'll feel like I'm doing something worthwhile," she says.

But she clarifies the significance of reading at any age. "It's so important to read to your kid, but it's universal, like music. You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who can't find joy from a book," says Simon.

She and her siblings developed their fondness for literature from both parents, but it was her famous father who'd take them each week on a special trip to the bookstore, much like parents today who treat their children with a visit to the Lego store or movie theater.

Rachel Simon and artist Phil O'Malley stand in front of The Public Collection lending libraries in the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center that O'Malley designed and titled,The Answer is in the Question. - COURTESY OF RACHEL SIMON
  • Courtesy of Rachel Simon
  • Rachel Simon and artist Phil O'Malley stand in front of The Public Collection lending libraries in the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center that O'Malley designed and titled,The Answer is in the Question.

"My father still takes us to the bookstore. It's almost become a tradition that started when we were young, and now it includes my daughter," she says.

The Indianapolis Public Library will replenish the book-share stations weekly with a broad selection of titles for diverse audiences and age groups, but Simon says she's already boxed up many tomes to contribute from her personal collection. Adding to that supply won't be a difficult task for her family. One of her sisters is particularly skilled at recommending and loaning books, but they all pass titles around. And her father enthusiastically continues building his personal library each week.

A graduate of Herron School of Art and Design, Simon also takes pride in The Public Collection's effort to foster a deeper appreciation of the arts and Hoosier artists.

"Art is a huge love of mine, as is literature, and I think both are powerful and transformational," she says. "To me, it just seemed like an obvious marriage; they are pieces of art that are functional."

Narrowing the search to only eight subjects who'd create the lending libraries proved daunting, because she says there are so many talented artists in town from which to choose.

Even though the installations would be 3-D, artists of various styles and disciplines were chosen. Simon says they were selected, in part, based on the locations and site-specific requirements for the stations.

Brose Partington's  Harvesting Knowledge matches the industrialized aesthetic of its location outside downtown's City Market. - COURTESY OF WELL DONE MARKETING
  • Courtesy of Well Done Marketing
  • Brose Partington's Harvesting Knowledge matches the industrialized aesthetic of its location outside downtown's City Market.

"I didn't want the art [installations] to be compromised by the fact that they needed to hold books," she says. "They needed to be beautiful pieces of public art first and foremost."

For a peek at the works, their locations and the artists and fabricators who created them, visit www.ThePublicCollection.org. And to hear more from Simon and others who helped bring the project to life, watch the video clip above from Central Indiana Community Foundation.

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