The following was submitted by the Island Free Library Board of Trustees:
The Island Free Library Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that it was awarded a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant of $7,500 which, combined with local funding, will enable the creation and installation of a new custom metalwork universal access handrail to replace the existing wooden railing at the side entrance of the library building. This functional public art project will receive the remaining 40 percent of its funding from the Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Island Free Library. Interstate Navigation will contribute round-trip ferry transportation for the installation crew this fall.
The handicap ramp, guard rails, balusters and handrails at the library’s side entry were installed 16 years ago during an addition/renovation project. Adjacent to the parking lot, this is the primary entrance, especially for those needing accessible accommodation, physically disabled individuals, senior citizens, and young children. The wooden balusters and railings have deteriorated and become unstable, cause splinters, and need replacement. The handrails do not extend far enough to provide adequate stability to transition people safely to the level portion of the parking lot. The new metalwork material and design of the handrail will correct these deficiencies, and greatly enhance accessibility and safety.
When a Trustee suggested collaborating with The Steel Yard on the handrail, to incorporate a creative and aesthetic solution to this problem, the Board embraced the idea enthusiastically. The opportunity to engage the community and to collaborate with the artisans of The Steel Yard of Providence on a creative, unique, durable and functional solution for the new handrail seemed a perfect fit for the Library and the Block Island community. The design will reflect the richness of the Block Island community, incorporating elements of literature, the arts, maritime history, and universal access. While enhancing access to the library, the metalwork handrail will be a work of public art celebrating Block Island’s history and culture. The project will engage local artists and underserved youth supported by The Steel Yard. Artists are currently developing designs, and a public meeting will be held later this summer to engage the community in the process. The Steel Yard will also fabricate and install the final product. The Library Board is excited about this project, which promises to transform a utilitarian handrail into a work of art while simultaneously solving a safety issue, and enhancing accessibility for all.
The Steel Yard is a nonprofit organization that promotes opportunities for training, small business incubation, cultural and artistic expression. It offers classes and studio space, and produces a limited line of custom metal goods.
Begun in 2016 to celebrate Rhode Island Foundation’s Centennial anniversary, the Community Grants program celebrates Rhode Island by funding community-making projects throughout the state. This is the second Community Grant that Block Island has received. In 2016, the Block Island Conservancy received a $10,000 grant for the Solviken water bottle filling station.