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The Sketchbook Project: A Global Art Library Grows

The Sketchbook Project is a constantly evolving library of handmade artists’ books, contributed by more than 22,000 people from 130+ countries. The Project encourages creative people from diverse backgrounds — working artists, full-time parents, busy professionals, students — to share their process with each other and the public. Participants sign up online to receive a blank book, fill it with work, and mail it back. The results are cataloged and archived in our storefront library, exhibited on tour in cities around the world and shared online. The Project operates at several points of intersection — online and offline; digital and physical; global and local; small business and arts organization. With one foot in the Web and another on the road, our passion is to inspire a wide-ranging online community to produce meaningful, tactile experiences in the physical world. This is the story of how a DIY approach to business, technology and creative work made a global project possible.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. As online communities and virtual social networks proliferate, connective experiences in the physical world become increasingly valuable. How can a Web-based company or organization mobilize members, fans and followers to create meaningful experiences in the real world?
  2. Managing a large online community is a significant challenge for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs. How can a small business or organization leverage new technology to effectively engage a large audience with limited human resources?
  3. Managing an archive — whether physical, digitial, or both — requires a major investment in architecture. How can a developer and/or designer produce DIY, low-cost solutions for storing and displaying crowd-sourced content in a variety of digital media? How does a MySQL database interface with a Web app built using Ruby on Rails? How do you digitize thousands of books and display them online?
  4. An archive of creative work takes on an added layer of complexity when a digital database is paired with a real-world counterpart. How can technological solutions help facilitate the physical exploration of a library or collection? And how do those solutions help lower a variety of operating costs, allowing smaller and more nimble organizations to handle larger archives than ever before?
  5. The Sketchbook Project is an unusual partnership: analog and digital, art and commerce, global phenomenon and local action. How can small businesses and other arts organizations strengthen the sustainability of their business models by focusing on the intersection of seemingly contradictory ideas, approaches and desires?



Eli Dvorkin, Manager, Partnerships and Development, Art House Co-op

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