Mobile Sketchbook Library Stops at UMKC

Students and faculty checked out sketchbooks from the Sketchbook Project's Mobile Library. Photo credit: Bob Steckmest, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

Sketchbook Project Fosters Connectedness, Social Interaction

When Sarah Karigan selected a thin, unassuming book from the Sketchbook Project’s mobile library, she didn’t know what to expect.

It was the sixth book she’d checked out from the packed, food truck-style library that was parked in front of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Fine Arts Building.

The books she’d seen so far were as diverse in content as they were in their places of origin. One came from the United Kingdom. Another came from Canada. Some were full-color sketches; others were pen on paper.

That’s the nature of the Sketchbook Project – a global, crowd-sourced art project that invites participants from all over the world to submit sketchbooks for the permanent exhibit in Brooklyn, NY, the online digital exhibit, or the traveling exhibition.

Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker co-founded the Sketchbook Project in 2006. It’s been a long journey. Peterman told a packed crowd in the Miller Nichols Library that when they started the project, the “mobile library” was a two-door Honda Civic. One of their first exhibits was just a few bookshelves they’d fashioned out of painted UPS boxes.

The crowd of mostly art students laughed as Peterman good naturedly showed them a picture of that exhibition.

The project started small, but it struck a chord. People around the world were drawn to the project. Artists and non-artists, children and adults, have contributed their work.

Now, the Sketchbook Project has more than 27,900 sketchbooks in the collection, and more than 68,700 participants. The project has traveled more than 52,333 miles.

But the project hasn’t just grown. It has evolved.

The Sketchbook Project got its start in the early days of social media, back when Facebook was only open to college students.

Peterman said that in those days, it seemed that people were drawn to the Sketchbook Project because they wanted to be inspired by others.

But over the years, Peterman says he has seen a shift. Today, people are going to social media to be inspired by what their friends are saying and doing. They’re coming to the Sketchbook Project for human interaction.

They’re also coming for the unexpected.

“You never know what you’re going to get. Some of the most amazing books are the ones that are plain on the outside,” Peterman said. He was referring to the books in the mobile library, which would be open to the UMKC community later that day.

Karigan was one of many students who stopped to check out a sketchbook from the mobile library. Peterman’s prediction held true. The thin, unassuming sketchbook Karigan checked out turned out to be her favorite. It was from an artist in Weirton, West Virginia.

Unlike the other works she’d seen, this one told a fluid story. The sketches had incredible detail. It inspired her to contribute a sketchbook of her own.

All around her, students and faculty sat, looking through sketchbooks from all over the globe. She and Freshman Jeremy Huffman sat together, sharing what they’d stumbled upon. He said he’d like to create a sketchbook, too.

“This is what every artist looks for. It’s an opportunity to get your work all over the world,” Huffman said.


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