Art odyssey: traverse the pages of creativity in an art tour through the Sandusky Library

Artist and naturalist John James Audubon spent much of his life studying and recording the natural world, and the 435 watercolors he created of North American bird species in their habitats set the standard for illustrating wildlife. 

Printed between 1827 and 1838, Audubon’s “Birds of America” series featured life-size prints of birds in natural poses that reflected behaviors he observed. 

The works were reproduced by engraving them on copper plates, then printing them in black-and-white and hand-coloring them. 

Of Audubon’s illustrations, fewer than 175 copies were printed, making the prints rare. Three of them are part of the Sandusky Library’s art collection and on public display at the library as part of its self-guided art tour. 

“Great Blue Heron,” “Ivory Billed Woodpecker,” and “Red-shouldered Hawk” hang on the wall in the Quiet Reading Room. 

An art glass window designed by Jessie May Livermore.“In my estimation, few of our waders are more interesting than the birds of this family,” Audubon wrote about the great blue heron pictured reaching toward the water with an open beak, ready to snap up a snack, in the library’s print. “Their contours and movements are always graceful, if not elegant.”

The library is fortunate to have a large collection of paintings and other types of art from local and national artists. 

After the library’s addition that connected the original Carnegie Library building and historic jail was completed in 2003, staff decided to hang the paintings around the building. They also developed the art tour, which visitors can take by picking up a free art tour brochure at the library. 

The tour takes visitors through the various sections of the library – from the children’s section to the archives - and features paintings, art glass, antique furniture and more.
“We’re preserving the local history and decorating the library at the same time,” says Ron Davidson, special collections librarian. “It shows that the historical collections we have aren’t just something to stick in a file somewhere. They’re an active piece of the history and the library and even the community.”

More than 35 works of art are on display in the library, and the tour brochure features artists ranging from local painters to renowned Victorian printing house Currier & Ives. 

Art glass windows

Installed in 1901, the decorative amber and imperial green glass, combined with the historic woodwork give the Adams Street lobby a stately and majestic look. 

Jessie May Livermore of Chicago designed the glass for each window, and her father, Col. Darius Livermore, who lived in Sandusky before the Civil War and started an art decorative business in Chicago, installed them. 

“But the summit of the range of brilliancy of art glass is not reached until one comes to the main entrance and views the doors and transom lights,” the Sandusky Register wrote on May 22, 1901. “In these are massed one solid collection of sparkling jewels in illuminated opalescence.”

Seascapes of Arnold G. Scheele

The library has a collection of seascapes painted by local painter Arnold G. Scheele, who went on to serve as dean of the Commercial Art School of Chicago and later head of the art department at Michigan State University. 

Scheele was born in 1886 on Kelleys Island and began taking painting lessons at age 11. He credited his teacher, Ms. Shelfon (first name unknown) with inspiring his art career. 

"Autumn Road" watercolor by Charles F. ShuckAt the library, his oil paintings are found throughout the new edition. Most feature water scenes, and each shows Scheele’s choice to feature light by painting the scenes in morning or at dusk. They depict ships and crashing waves. 

In 1925, the National Artists League named him one of America’s best 100 artists. Today, Scheele’s works are sought at auctions. 

“His works are still pretty popular,” Davidson says. 

Watercolors by Charles F. Shuck

Charles F. Shuck (1868-1896) was 17 when he moved to Sandusky with his family. That’s where Mrs. John Hudson (Her first name is unknown) taught him art, giving him the only instruction he would have in the field. 

His watercolors feature picturesque scenes and people and are in the reference services area of the library. “Gladys and Dog” features Shuck’s daughter. She holds food warily as a white dog, sitting in a begging stance, watches her.

Other works on display feature a brilliant fall day, windmills, and a young boy. 

“Naval Heroes of the United States” by Currier & Ives

Although many associate Victorian printing house Currier & Ives with idyllic scenes of Christmas past, the lithographers created a wide variety of works with 7,500 titles ranging from sports to sentimental to political to religious. 

The library’s print, “Naval Heroes of the United States,” is patriotic. Its depicts Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie that took place near South Bass Island during the War of 1812, and five other American naval officers who fought in the battle.

These are a sampling of some of the art works on display in the library and in the tour brochure. To take the self-guided tour and see all the art, visit the library, located at 114 W. Adams St., during open hours.