MANALAPAN — There’s something puzzling about the mural hanging in the front lobby of the Monmouth County Library Headquarters on Symmes Road. The colorful spectacle actually is a joint creation by participants at Puzzle Project workshops at county library branches in Shrewsbury, Hazlet, Howell, Marlboro, Wall, Allentown and Manalapan.
Hundreds of separate art and expressive works on 2-by-2-foot foam core puzzle pieces — including drawings, paintings, and poetry — were snapped together on March 10 by coordinator Tim Kelly. There’s no common theme, except the artists collaboratively “prove that art is essential to life,” Kelly said. “I tell participants as a guideline that each piece shouldn’t just say something, it should say something meaningful to you,” said Kelly, an artist and instructor. Kelly is a former Shore resident now living in New York City with an art studio in Brooklyn.
Visions and statements about peace and love are the most common themes, said Kelly, adding, “It’s funny how those themes have stayed prominent for practically forever. They never go away.”
One contribution consists of a gray canvas, a drawing of a flower, and the hand-printed lyrics of the song “Forgotten Children” by Tokio Hotel. “They can tell any story they want on the puzzle pieces,” Kelly said.
County library officials said Puzzle Project is part of expanded teen/young-adult programming being offered.
Monmouth County Public Relations Librarian Judi Tolchin said many library systems are making efforts to reconnect with young readers. The Monmouth system has a Teen Advisory Board that holds monthly meetings. Students serving as board members earn community service hours as they share ideas for teen programs.
“Teenagers are in transition. If we can keep them involved in their libraries, they will have an important resource to use as they are starting their careers and starting to go on with their futures,” Tolchin said.