MELISSA LEVIN, 1958 – 2015
If you’ve been to the Children’s Library at Central, you’ve noticed Treasure Hunt, a beautiful, bold, intricate mural that runs along the entire glass wall of the children’s programming room.
This is one of the last large pieces created by Melissa Levin, a vibrant, passionate artist. Melissa died last week of a rare blood disease.
She loved vintage textiles, and told me that some of the fabrics included in Treasure Hunt were from items she wore as a child. She also told me she kept the treasure chest on the mural closed, so that everyone – children and adults alike – could imagine for themselves what might be inside it.
Melissa’s work lives on in the joy our library visitors and staff get from seeing Treasure Hunt. We collected some of their thoughts, and were able to share them with her before her death.
A letter to Melissa from Laura Reed, manager of children’s and teens services at KPL
“I love watching children discover it, I love watching parents and grandparents stop and chat about it, and I secretly love the envy I see when I show colleagues from other libraries. I ran into a librarian I know a few weeks ago; she had visited my library on a day I wasn’t there. When I asked her what she thought, her first words were… “that owl!” She fell in love with your owl. It left a big impression on her, and hearing that made me smile.
“Melissa, I cannot thank you enough for the joy and beauty you brought to us here at Kitchener Public Library. I feel it and I am grateful every day. For me, it took the space and made it a home. Oh, and I still can’t walk past the gopher without stopping to scratch his belly.”
Comments from library visitors
“When I look at the mural I feel like spring, even in the winter.”
“I like it because it has foxes and rabbits and habitats.”
“Brightens up my day every time I see it.”
“Inspires learning about nature. My child and I have had many conversations that have started at the mural.”
“It makes me happy.” (by Clara who is 2)
“You cannot have a bad day when you look at the mural.”
Cheryl Jankowski, senior library assistant in children’s programming
“Thank you so much for the mural. It is a great addition to our programming room. It is colourful, bright and brings a smile to all the little faces who attend programs (and the adults as well). I love how people always want to touch it, as it looks as if it has texture.”
A letter to Melissa from Sonia Lewis, former CEO of KPL
“This is my last day at Kitchener Public Library. As you can imagine, I take a lot of great memories with me. I wanted you to know your mural is one of them. I can’t imagine our Children’s Department without your mural. It’s whimsical, colourful and clever.
“I’ve experienced first-hand how it lifts my spirits and observed its impact on people of all ages who come to the Library. You played a big part in making our Central Library a place that is cherished by people in the community. Thank you!”
If you haven’t had a chance to see Treasure Hunt, look at these photos (which don’t do justice to the entire piece) or come and see it in person. And please read more about Melissa, the woman, the friend, the artist, the lesbian helper, and learn more about a memorial fund set up in her honour.