Laura Krentz, a youth services librarian at Augsburg Park Library in Richfield, has been doing art a long time, "mostly crafty things," like crocheting, sewing and jewelry-making.

This past May, after gauging interest from young people who come through the library, she got inspired to start a teen art club.

The club, which meets monthly at the library, is geared for students in grades 6 to 12, she said.

Krentz recalled a popular anime-style drawing club at the Southdale Library in Edina, where she worked previously. That motivated her, as well.

It helps that the Richfield library hosts a teen art contest every fall in conjunction with the city's arts commission. Last year, Krentz surveyed some of its participants during a reception.

The idea struck a chord, and before long, the art club was up and running. Krentz leads the meetings, though occasionally she brings in other teachers or volunteers.

Right now, Krentz is gathering materials, such as cardboard, magazines, glue sticks and more, for the group's Aug. 31 get-together, which will center on collage work.

She plans to mock up an example for the group, but "teens are so creative, they'll probably come up with their own designs and ideas and help each other, too," she said.

Additionally, in the coming months, Krentz is planning an anime/manga workshop in collaboration with the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, and separately, a stop-animation workshop.

A wide variety of genres

Already, the club has covered quite a bit of ground.

Krentz began the monthly art club in May with a drawing session. It was followed by a crochet workshop that connected with the international Crochet Coral Reef project to raise awareness about issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Krentz, who's been crocheting for 40 years, had been involved with the project to crochet a "woolen reef," which began with sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring. The instute is a Los Angeles nonprofit organization "dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and engineering," according to its website.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibit "Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester, and the Creative Mind," which runs through Aug. 30, dovetails with the coral reef project.

As a part of that, the museum is spearheading the Minneapolis Satellite Reef, which will be on view at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization Community Facility in Minneapolis from Monday to Sept. 30.

Students had the opportunity to contribute to the exhibit, she said. So, for that club meeting, a museum volunteer "showed people how to do it, how to make things that look like pieces of coral."

Krentz brought yarn, simple hooks and books with colorful coral reef pictures, which she pulled from the library's collection. "That was fascinating for them to see, what it looks like underwater, and to learn about the dangers and the parts that are dying," she said.

Last month, students learned how to fold origami creations, including one star-shaped piece that's "like a Transformer. It can change from one thing to another," Krentz said, adding, "It's something the whole family can do. It's a great hands-on activity."

Tie-in to the library

The Richfield library's teen art club is a way to fill a void: "I don't know if the subject is taught as much in the schools anymore," Krentz said.

"This is one way they can express themselves," and it brings together a diverse group around a common interest, Krentz said.

She observed that a skateboard art program in June brought in some teens who "might not come to the library usually, but it was interesting and relevant to them."

Similarly, whenever she leads youth book clubs, she always supplies paper and markers for drawing in a free-flowing kind of way. It helps them focus, "if they can use their hands at the same time," Krentz said.

Stephanie Steinwedel, program manager for Hennepin County Library, said the art club and similar offerings present "an opportunity to learn skills, including leadership skills and develop their own talents," while also connecting socially, she said.

Arts and crafts have found a solid audience at the library. For example, Art Out of the Box, a summer program in 33 Hennepin County Library branches,through a partnership with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, has been quite a draw. It hires teen educators to put on workshops for elementary schoolchildren, which are tied to the museum's exhibit, "Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia."

Students toured the exhibit with the artist himself, "something they'd never be able to do otherwise," Steinwedel said.

Other artistic library programs for students have centered on Instagram photography, jewelry-making and 3-D printing. "When their minds are engaged, they do better in school," she said.

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at