Libraries across Western Pa. offer coloring classes for adults
Vivian Marr chose a bright yellow pencil for her picture of garden flowers, while Christa Eastham picked a lavender pencil for the delicate wings of a butterfly.
Both were coloring intricate pictures in coloring books this month at Western Allegheny Community Library in North Fayette. Marr is 49 and a grandmother; Eastham, of Burgettstown, is 20 and a college student in Steubenville, Ohio. Coloring is a hobby they pursue at monthly library coloring sessions and at home.
“When my husband has something really stupid on television and I don't feel like reading, I drag out my bag and color,” said Marr, adult programming coordinator for the library. “It's relaxing and calming and there's no brain activity.”
“It's nice to do it before bed,” said Eastham, adding she has been “coloring since I was able to.”
She saves some of her finished work for posting around her home, including on the refrigerator. Marr, though, has been known to toss her finished pages in the recycle bin.
Staff of local libraries have noticed the adult coloring trend and are striving to help patrons follow their coloring bliss. Several libraries have either already begun coloring programs, or are in the process of starting them.
Sewickley Public Library offered its first session Monday; Bethel Park's coloring program will begin in December. Art sessions that began several years ago at Avalon Public Library as a weekly program meant for ages 11 to 14, have morphed into sessions for adults. Some children have participated with their grandparents. They talk about art, and some are gifted artists; Rania Sullivan, library director, has ordered coloring books for those who might not be as artistic.
Sewickley web services librarian Meghan Snatchko said she was aiming at an older-adult demographic by scheduling the monthly coloring sessions at 1 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month, though that time might have to be adjusted.
By planning the coloring program, Snatchko was aiming to serve “people who may be kind of creative, and they don't have another outlet. You can interact if you want, or you don't have to interact,” she said.
Bethel Park Public Library plans to offer coloring for adults beginning Dec. 17.
“We're excited about this,” said Bethel Park library executive director Christine McIntosh. “I find it's very stress-relieving.”
McIntosh, who has been “coloring for years,” plans to “be there coloring, too.”
“It's important for adults to have an opportunity to let the world go,” she said. “Coloring for adults is a way for the library to support health and literacy, as research indicates that coloring de-stresses and lessens anxiety.
“Coloring also exercises fine motor skills and centers the brain, having a calming effect similar to yoga.”
But Kathy Amrhein, branch manager of Sharpsburg Community Library, said the eight to 10 adults who color on Thursday evenings have simply told her “it sounded like fun.” The Sharpsburg group began meeting last month.
Among favored coloring books are those by Scottish artist Johanna Basford, whose botanical “Enchanted Forest” became a New York Times bestseller; Marr used Basford's “Secret Garden” as her coloring book at a recent coloring session. Retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart now stock coloring books for adults with the tiny detailed line drawings. Basford also offered an artist's edition of “Secret Garden” with 20 pullout prints from the original book, printed single-side on card stock suitable for framing.
Books cost $6 to more than $20; some designs are available free online and can be printed.
Mark Elliott, district manager for Barnes & Noble in Pittsburgh, Erie and Cleveland, said the chain's adult coloring books started off as “a small movement in the spring,” with one display at the end of an aisle. But after a national morning show segment on the coloring books for adults, sales grew to become a phenomenon. Now, they have their own section, and millions of books have been sold nationwide.
“The buyers went out and made sure we can stay in stock for the holidays,” he said.
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.