If you're looking for musty folios and Old Masters lithographs, the Brooklyn Art Library probably isn't your kind of place. Instead, what you'll find inside this storefront space in Williamsburg is something that captures the zeitgeist of the moment: a vast collection of handmade books (27,000, to be exact) filled with the doodles, drawings and creative imaginings of professional artists, grandmas, kindergarteners and all kinds of people in between. This global, crowd-sourced exhibition, known as The Sketchbook Project, is open to anyone with an imagination and the $25 submission fee. A sample of work from The Sketchbook Project — Photo courtesy of The Sketchbook Project
The Project was first conceived by Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker, two art-school grads who put out their first call for submissions in 2007. "We envisioned this egalitarian community where anyone could exhibit work without some complicated process," says Peterman. Annual submissions have been growing exponentially ever since. This year’s response is ten times the previous year's, topping 67,000 participants from 130 countries ranging in age from eight to 86.
Not surprisingly, such a diverse sampling has resulted in an astounding variety of work, which includes graphic novels, pop-up books, portraits and pages that have been quilted, burned, beaded and laser-cut. In fact, the only guidelines for filling the Project's blank Moleskine notebooks–"keep it within the margins" and "please, no glitter"– open up the playing field for maximum creative expression.
In addition to the thousands of sketchbooks that line the Brooklyn Art Library's shelves, thousands more are currently on a multi-city tour throughout the country. You can find out more by visiting the Sketchbook Project website.