Sketchbooks, not Shhhhs at Brooklyn Art Library

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The Brooklyn Art LIbrary in Williamsburg

Who is an artist? Someone who makes and shares their art. That’s the working philosophy behind Art House Co-op.

The group, which was founded in 2006 by Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker, conceptualizes and produces interactive group art projects. Each new show is “inspired by our community–thousands of artists from more than 100 countries, sharing their disparate experiences and processes across physical and cultural boundaries,” explains Eli Dvorkin, project manager for Art House. Art House projects always have two phases: the collection of work from around the world, and then its presentation. Call it crowdsourcing, then crowd pleasing. Their annual Sketchbook Project, for instance, invites artists to submit Moleskine notebooks which Art House provides, then exhibits nationwide. They are also seeking submissions for an ongoing photo project, called A Million Little Pictures, in addition to a few other works in collective progress. Professional and amateur artists are equally encouraged to submit their art.

In December, Art House opened The Brooklyn Art Library on North 3rd Street in Williamsburg, as a physical home for the collective’s creative machinations, and for the works that comprise each project they launch. Dvorkin describes the library as “Art House’s archive of visual inspiration.” In addition to serving as a storefront reading room, open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday between 12 and 8pm, the library also serves as exhibition space and and sells an ever-changing selection of beautiful sketchbooks, journals and stationary, including vintage books and items from Serrote, La Jeunesse, and Rite in the Rain. This weekend Art House will also launch their own line of paper goods, called Pocket Dept.

One of the books from the Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011 opens at the Brooklyn Art Library this Saturday from noon to 10pm. An assortment of sketchbooks submitted by 28,838 artists from 94 countries will be on display before the show goes on the road, beginning a tour of galleries and museums around the nation later this month. Venues range across the country, from the Austin Museum of Art to the Form/Space Atelier in Seattle. (The complete schedule can be found on Art House’s website.) After the tour, all the sketchbooks will enter the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library, where they will be available for public viewings.

When A Million Little Pictures opens this fall, it will embark on a no less ambitious, cross-country photography exhibition, but rather than moving from gallery to gallery, it will take its gallery on the road. The Photomobile is a custom-built library of photographs housed inside an Airstream trailer. In September 2011, it will embark on an epic U.S. tour, traveling to galleries, museums, and alternative project spaces. Viewers will be able to enter the Photomobile to experience the exhibition and to use it as an extensive picture library, searching for photographs by name, theme or location.

In these digitalized times when a few clicks lead to any virtually imaginable destination, Art House’s approach to exhibitions that tour like rock bands seems enchantingly hands-on. And participation in A Million Little Pictures is easy. “We currently have more than 1000 artists signed up and we’d be thrilled to bring another thousand along,” says Dvorkin.  You simply sign up on the Art House’s website, pay a $25 fee to cover materials, and you will receive a customized Brooklyn Art Library disposable camera in the mail, along with a return envelope for prints, and instructions. Online, you will already have selected one of the project’s guiding themes, such as “Lights and Beams,” “People I Know,” or “Sharp Curve Ahead.” You’ll have 27 frames to explore your subject matter and the organizers promise to feature at least one image by each participant in the show. Your fully loaded camera is due back to Art House by March 31.

The sheer number of participants in A Million Little Pictures will certainly guarantee a staggering amount of content, stylistic diversity, and creativity. By joining all these images together into one vast tapestry, Art House aims to evoke a shared narrative and offer a communal experience. To assure the longevity of the project, Art House plans not just to archive the photos in the Brooklyn Art Library, but also to publish a book this December and to create a new home for an in-depth exploration of selected photographs on their website by next year.

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