During Fall 2021, the Gund Gallery participated in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. This initiative encouraged storytelling by providing notebooks in which Kenyon students and faculty could gather visual and written reflections on the Gallery’s anniversary exhibition, Call/Response: The Gund Gallery Turns 10. Faculty members and their classes made use of their sketchbooks in a variety of ways and for diverse projects, such as exploring materiality and meaning, examining nature and sculpture, creating collage and poetry, and working collaboratively on the page. Students went above and beyond the prompts they were provided, filling the sketchbooks as they saw fit, which were often in unexpected and creative ways. The resulting sketchbooks on display showcase the myriad personalities, sensibilities, and concerns present in the Kenyon community.
The anonymous nature of the project enabled participants to be vulnerable, open, and honest in their reflections. Although you might recognize your friends’ handwriting or drawings, the majority of these sketchbooks will remain unfamiliar, providing a space to experience everyday thoughts and intimate experiences. Almost every sketchbook combines text and image in innovative ways, and many are a direct response to the Call/Response exhibition.
As the Gund Gallery Curatorial Team, we approached this project collaboratively and let the objects speak for themselves. We arranged them in the cases to create visual balance rather than dividing them by theme. To choose the pages that we left open in the cases, we flipped through the books carefully and worked together to choose spreads that sparked our interest. Some are poetic, some funny, some visually striking, some mysterious. We couldn’t display all the pages we loved, so we scanned the rest and uploaded them to iPads, which you’ll find on the far wall. This process was intuitive, creative, and a bonding experience as we got to know the sketchbooks.
As these sketchbooks are an intimate and honest view into the creators’ minds, we wanted to create a warm and welcoming place to enjoy their work. This space is conceived as a reading room for us to occupy and enjoy. We invite you to join in the creative process by adding to the provided sketchbooks and scanning the QR codes to access the Brooklyn Art Library’s digital archive of sketchbooks.
About the Brooklyn Art Library/Sketchbook Project:
The Brooklyn Art Library/Sketchbook Project has been active for over fifteen years, accumulating an archive of over 60,000 sketchbooks from more than 30,000 contributors. Artists request a blank notebook from the library and have eight months to complete it. They then send it back, and the library scans and logs the pages for their online archive.
On its website, the Brooklyn Art Library calls its collection “a slice of creativity,” “a source for endless inspiration,” but perhaps most importantly, a “glimpse into what people are thinking,” and an inner look into the minds of the artists. The Brooklyn Art Library rarely, if ever, rejects submissions—and never on the grounds of merit or a conventional view of talent. Such openness has allowed the library to highlight many different voices, giving everyone a chance to present their work publicly.
In February of this year, while moving the library to a new location in Florida, a devastating fire destroyed 30% of the Sketchbook archive and most of the supplies the organization uses in its daily operation. The effects of this disaster are still unfolding, and currently work is underway to identify the losses and restore what can be saved.