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Chapel Hill Public Library

A department of the Town of Chapel Hill

Public Art at the Library: the Rabbit, Turtle, Toad and Snake Statues

The Grand Intimate By Todd Frahm/Stone Cloud Studio, Swannanoa, NC

What is the story behind the four large animal sculptures outside the Chapel Hill Public Library?

From the serpent in the book of Genesis to Aesop’s tortoise and hare, all the way to Mr. Toad’s wild ride, animals have been used to frame narratives that teach us about our morality, humanity, and even love. 

Because the library is brimming with such stories, Sculptor Todd Frahm proposed to create a variety of characters off the pages of these delightful animal stories. He designed seven models depicting the following animals: rabbit, frog, snake, turtle, duck, snail, crab. These were chosen as they are frequently depicted in literature, and the assorted textures and patterns of each could be embellished in stone.

Scale Models

The selection of the four animals was left up to the Library staff and patrons. After a lengthy public vote, the final four to be on permanent display are the Rabbit, Turtle, Toad, and Snake. Together, the work is called "The Grand Intimate"

The Grand Intimate by Sculptor Todd Frahm

It took nearly a year of diligent work with hammer and chisel (jackhammer?) at Stone Cloud Studio in Swannanoa NC for the final sculptures to take their form. Each was carved out of a block of limestone measuring approximately 40” x 40” x 40”, so their final weight is roughly 4,400 pounds each. These stand-alone, larger-than-life-size, compact animal sculptures have permanent positions at the upper end of the Library's plaza. Their size, shape and finished surface allows children to safely perch, play, nestle and read on the sculptures, while serving as seating for adults.

Click on the image below for a slideshow of pictures from the installation and unveiling:

"The Grand Intimate" by Todd Frahm

The statues are in the style of Japanese Netsuke, the small carved (mostly ivory) pieces traditionally used to tied kimono sashes, but also revered as tiny sculptures. Because limestone is a durable, low maintenance material, the works only need to be cleaned with water and should last for years. The statues will be sealed with a breathable silicone sealer that will limit staining from contact, prevent the growth of mold and lichen, and prevent etching from acid rain.

"The Grand Intimate" is made possible in part through Chapel Hill's Percent for Art program, which uses a portion of funds for any public construction for the creation of new works of art, and a collaboration between Chapel Hill Public Library and the Chapel Hill Division of Public and Cultural Arts.

The Chapel Hill Public Library renovations were completed in 2013. The upgraded library facility includes many new and improved features that enhance services and resources offered to the community. The building is certified as LEED Silver. The public art commissioned for the Library is meant to create an atmosphere that enriches the Library experience, delights visitors, and celebrates the Library as a place for curious minds and community connections. Selected artists were encouraged to address the following themes: community, knowledge, inquiry, literacy, technology, creativity or imagination.

A Selection Committee comprising local arts professionals, Library and other Town staff, and members of the Public Arts Commission and Chapel Hill Town Council reviewed more than 230 submissions in the fall of 2013 and heard design proposals from finalists in 2014. Todd Frahm's "Grand Intimate" concept was approved by the Town Council in the fall of 2014 at the same time that Erik Carlson's "Unbound" memory library project was selected for inside of the library. Read more about that process here.

The artwork was installed by crane on July 24, 2015 with a community celebration of the unveiling the next day. The Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library, along with the Town of Chapel Hill Division of Public and Cultural Arts commissioned Frahm and his wife Lara Nguyen to create a limited edition coloring book for the occasion. A limited number of copies of the hand drawn illustrations inspired by the animals of The Grand Intimate are freely available at the Library for any patron who requests one.

Last updated: 25 July 2015