Sketchbook Project an evolving library of artists’ works

09/21/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:34 AM

Just as a performer must rehearse and an athlete must train, an artist must sketch. Sometimes the sketches are personal, other times they are whimsical, but always they are helpful. Often these drawings land in a sketchbook – a journal of images.

Later this week, 27,511 sketchbooks from around the world will be displayed in Wichita. More than 60 of these books were penned by local artists.

The Sketchbook Project is a touring show that features the sketchbooks of artists from more than 11,000 cities. Each book in the 2013 tour was completed in 2012 and sent to the Brooklyn Art Library, the headquarters for the project.

Steven Peterman, the project’s co-founder, will speak about this evolving library on Thursday at Wichita State University. Since the organization’s founding in 2006, a mobile library crisscrosses the U.S. with the previous year’s entries.

“Our mission was to allow people to participate and have an outlet for their art,” Peterman said. “We wanted to allow anybody to make art and show their work.”

Peterman and his co-founder, Shane Zucker, wanted to create an egalitarian outlet for artists. The project, stored in New York City, portrays about 75,000 artists’ works and contains more than 28,000 sketchbooks with more than 135 countries represented.

The project, which essentially crowdsources art, is open to anyone of any age or occupation. For $25, the project will send a participant a 5-inch-by-7-inch, 32-page sketchbook. After the sketchbook is filled, the artist mails it back and it becomes part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library and will be part of a mobile library tour.

Each sketchbook is the same size and brand, but that is where the uniformity ends. Artists are encouraged to delve into their own creativity and locate their artistic voice. The rules are few – no glitter, no sharp objects or dangling material. Artists can’t get their books back, but they can visit them.

More than 50 students from Wichita State University have embraced this project. Area high school students also were invited to participate.

“They took off with it,” said Kevin Kelly, an art teacher at West High School. “This is a chance for them to tap into a global thing.”

More than 20 of Kelly’s students will have work represented in the exhibition. Others are continuing to work on their sketchbooks and will send them in later this year. Their work will be shown during next year’s tour.

“Artists in another part of the country and another part of the world will see their work,” Kelly said.

Many of the students from West, WSU and other schools also will be on hand for the ribbon cutting and Final Friday event that will take place at the new home of Shift Space, the WSU art school’s gallery. Shift Space is moving back to Commerce Street, where it began seven years ago.

The sketchbook mobile library will park outside the gallery and Final Friday visitors can walk between the two art locations.

The sketchbooks in this part of the tour interpret the theme of “Capes, Masks and Tights.” Much of the work being exhibited at Shift Space on Friday also follows that theme, and several students plan to dress up in capes, masks and tights. The public is invited to participate.

In addition to the mobile library, the project offers a digital library of sketchbooks, searchable by the artist’s name, country or city.

Peterman has seen firsthand the effects of keeping an ongoing sketchbook.

“People use this for so much more than just sketching,” Peterman said. “It has become a therapeutic machine.”

Peterman has seen artists – both trained and novice – examine cancer, death and survival.

“It’s overpowering,” Peterman said.

During the art lunch on Thursday, artists and novices can bring their own drawings, sketchbooks and ideas.

Aimee Geist, curator of education at the Ulrich Museum of Art, which is helping to host the Sketchbook Project, said she wanted the project to stay longer than its usual one day at a location. So she contacted the WSU art school, rearranged, negotiated and came up with the event.

“My goal was to get more play for the Sketchbook Project,” Geist said. “This was an anchor event for Final Friday.”

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