This post was originally published on November 30th, 2012.

We’re delighted to have Rebecca Rubenstein on board as a Feature Writer at large for the Library as Incubator Project, especially because she is both a librarian and a visual artist!  She lives and works in New York City, and we’re very happy to have her keen eye looking out for the best arts-incubating libraries and projects there. Enjoy! ~Erinn

The Sketchbook Project at Brooklyn Art Library

by Rebecca Rubenstein

There is a library full of sketchbooks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! The books that are on the shelves of the Brooklyn Art Library are part of The Sketchbook Project run by the Art House Co-op. The co-founders of Art House, Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker are friends from art school.  They started Art House in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 because they wanted to build a community where artists, all working with similar themes, could share creative insights and ideas. In 2009, they moved the organization to Brooklyn and opened the Brooklyn Art Library in 2010.

Any person, no matter where they live, can participate in the Sketchbook Project and Art House actively encourages artists and non-artists alike to take part. The guidelines for participation are very open—you are asked to pick from a variety of themes such as chapbook, almanac, lists, mystery, memoir. For anyone thinking of participating, the FAQ page has lots of helpful information and explains very clearly how the process works.

The participation fee is $25 and you sign up online. You are sent a 32-page sketchbook, which you mail it back to Art House and then the staff takes the books on tour! The 2012 Sketchbook Project recently concluded. This tour started at the Brooklyn Art Library and traveled to locations across the country, including California, Maine, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts and Georgia. They were also in Canada and London. Participating artists periodically receive updates letting them know which cities their book has been to.

Chris Heuberger, the Head Librarian at the Brooklyn art Library tells me that soon the touring process will change to give participants more options. Each tour will have its own theme and participants will be able to sign up at any time, versus the current process where there are set dates for participation.

I also asked Heuberger how many sketchbooks were part of the 2012 tour. He said, “the entire 2012 Sketchbook Project was about 10,000 sketchbooks total.” This number includes 2,500 sketchbooks that will be included in Limited Edition Book that will be out on December 7, 2012. In terms of the image selection process for the book, Heuberger said they set a number limit of 2,500 and participants signed up separately to be included in the book.

There is also a digital library that artists can choose to be a part of when they sign up for the project. The digital library is available via the Art House site. Art House also hosts an online community for artists who have taken part in their various projects. Images from the digital library are posted here, plus artists can post their own images and communicate with other users as well.

A few of the sketchbook spreads that have been scanned into the digital library:

In addition to the sketchbook projects, Art House posts additional projects on their website that are open for participation. Some of these projects ask participants to write a note, send it to art house and receive another in exchange through the mail; draw a map that represents their world; make an art project in a tiny glass jar; take a photo of yourself eating on the specific date of February 24, 2012 at noon and send it to Art House. Responses to these projects have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Library.

All of these projects remind me of my art school days when I was actively able to share my work with others and get feedback. With the Art House projects people are able to share on a large scale and receive a wide variety of comments about their work. Certainly, the creative conversation is advanced by the presence of the physical and digital library, as well as the online community, established by Art House.

Join us next week as Rebecca’s discussion with Chris Heuberger continues and she offers a deeper look into the workings of the Brooklyn Art Library.


Rebecca Rubenstein is an artist who earned her MFA from from Pratt Institute before enrolling as an MSLIS student at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University. She recently completed an internship with the Librarian for Fine Art at New York University’s Bobst Library. One of her projects there was to build a Lib Guide which includes online and print professional development resources for visual artists. She currently works in the eLibrary of an educational software company. Visit her website at

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