Gilda Santana is an artist at heart who always found sanctuary at libraries.
“I’ve always felt comfortable with the two,” Santana said.
Her office, decorated with artwork and architecture models, looks more like an artist’s work space.
Along with artwork and pictures of family and pets, Santana keeps a set of quotes on her wall.
One of those she applies to herself every day.
“I was born not knowing and have had little time to change that here and there,” this quote by Richard Feynman reads.
She’s an artist that finds landscape and architecture interesting, but still finds time to paint and sketch.
“She has a very artistic sense, but she’s not the typical rebellious artist,” Scott Britton, a friend and colleague of Santana’s for two and a half years, said. “I could tell she was some sort of artist when I met her from the way she dressed and her jewelry.”
Britton remembers searching for houses with Santana after both accepted their jobs at UM.
Britton said Santana preferred the diversity, eclecticism and “shagginess” of Coconut Grove over the organized neighborhoods of Coral Gables.
Santana was born in Cuba, but she was raised in Union City, N.J. Here she found little creative outlet.
Her father, a factory machine operator, and her mother, an embroiderer, felt most comfortable with Santana spending her free time at the local library.
She began to work there as a teenager and later worked at art museums.
As a teenager, the eclectic city of New York, with art displays and museums practically in her backyard, nurtured her creative mind.
“I took the train to Manhattan since I was 13,” she recalled.
Her appetite for the arts in the city led her to move there right after high school.
Santana worked in a number of art museums, libraries, bookstores, and design studios. She attended Bard College and received her degree in art history.
“I always thought I’d be an artist,’’ she explained. “I wanted to be a painter.”
Art wasn’t going to pay the bills, so Santana got a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University, folding her lifelong passion into a profession.
In spare time she reads books about architecture and often sketches images of her dogs and landscapes she comes across.
Santana joined the UM libraries staff in 2007 as the School of Architecture’s first librarian.