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The Sketchbook Project, a mobile library featuring sketchbooks by artists from 135 different countries, hits Toronto this weekend at the Gladstone Hotel until Sunday, July 22.  The sketchbooks are taken from the Brooklyn Art Library’s archive, a catalogue of nearly 22,000 sketchbooks submitted by individuals across the globe. As Steven Peterman, co-founder of the Art House Co-Op, explains, the library is neither curated nor juried; anyone can submit a sketchbook.

BP: What is the Sketchbook Project?

Steven Peterman: The Sketchbook project is one of many projects [by the Art House Co-op]. The idea goes like this: you sign-up on our website and pay a small submission fee, which helps fund our tours, to receive a sketchbook. You choose a theme, we send you a sketchbook, and then have you send it back to us once the pages of the book are filled up. The sketchbooks then go on tour across North America. This year we’re visiting 15 cities. The ‘home library’ is based in Brooklyn, New York.  [The project] is open to anybody. We don’t curate any of the work. The idea is more about creating a collective of artists represented by a traveling library. We hope to inspire people to create artworks that we can present in a format outside the conventions of a traditional art gallery.

BP: How does the mobile library work when it’s stationed in different cities?

Steven Peterman: [There are computers set up on site] for visitors to make a library card, search our database, and take a book out to view on site. Also, the artists have the option of receiving an email or text message every time their books are signed out. During our opening night in Toronto, we’ve had just under a thousand books checked out.

BP: How was the idea of a mobile library conceived?

Steven Peterman: [Before the Brooklyn Art Library] we were originally stationed at Atlanta Georgia but wanted to start touring these sketchbooks to reach a wider audience. As the collection grew, our original method of having the books displayed on tables wasn’t working. We were in need of some form of organization and then had the crazy idea of starting an ‘art library.’ Our database is loosely based on the dewy decimal system, but significantly different to suit our library. We currently have ten moving shelves that we can roll straight into our trailer and drive around the country.

BP: Why tour sketchbooks instead of having a digital archive?

Steven Peterman: We also have a digital version of the project with ten thousand books. We did sketchbooks because it was the most [accessible] and successful medium we’ve tried. In the past we experimented with other forms and media but I think people are more comfortable with the sketchbook, especially those who don’t particularly identify themselves as an artist.

Learn more about the project here: The Sketchbook Project