Sketchbook Project Draws Artists Together

BY Arts Desk  March 11, 2009 at 12:55 PM EDT

Two young men hit the road with sketchbooks from more than 2,700 artists. It’s not the greatest heist of found art ever; it’s the third annual Sketchbook Project, now touring galleries across the country in a two-door Honda Civic.

At 23 years old, Shane Zucker and Steven Peterman aren’t quite old enough to rent most cars, but in 2006, after graduating from the Atlanta College of Art, they founded their own vehicle for connecting artists, the Art House Co-op and Gallery. They’ve been building roadmaps to link artists ever since.

[View a slide show of sketchbooks from the Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project.]

Page from Sketchbook Project; courtesy of Art House Co-opThe Sketchbook Project essentially began as a casting call for artists from across the globe to send in their sketchbooks. Professional artists, grandmas, 6-year-olds and everyone in between participated. With almost 3,000 participants, this year’s project, on the theme “Everyone we know,” is the biggest yet, touring the country with 1,364 of those Moleskine sketchbooks — the same kind used by Pablo Picasso and Jean Paul Sartre.

At galleries in six cities, Art House Co-op makes it a point to spread the books across tables, inviting people to look inside. “The point of the show is to get absorbed and become comfortable with the work, and the only way to do that is to touch them,” said Zucker, who remembers that while loving the library book collections in college, librarians would “look over your shoulder and make you wear neat white gloves.” He believes the sterile environment set the personality of the book and the artist at a remove.

Although basically a two-man operation (plus an intern), Art House Co-op specializes in creating nationwide projects to draw artists together. Their first was “A Million Little Pictures,” a collection of photos from 150 disposable cameras submitted by artists across the country. Today there’s “The 10,000 Project,” “the Canvas Project” and the “Print Exchange,” to name just a few.

The Sketchbook Project feels fairly innovative. The method resembles the way we interact on the Internet — unconnected people brought together to ruminate on the same idea. Zucker believes when that happens, communities form, ideas are shared and things happen. Which gets back to the original idea of the sketchbook, as Vincent Van Gogh noted: “My sketch-book shows that I try to catch things in the act.”

The sketchbooks are in St. Louis on Wednesday, then head to Brooklyn for display Friday and then back to Atlanta. The next Sketchbook Project start in June.