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The Art City Public Library Project

December 12, 2010

By Inge Hoonte, September 1-7, 2010
Made possible by the never-ending, fun-loving, creative support of staff and volunteers at Art City, aceartinc., and Milena Placentile

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I came to Winnipeg with a small, red suitcase and a workshop outline. I left with more than any carry-on size bag could ever contain: a big stack of memories and experiences strewn together with hot glue and colorful thread. In a week’s time, participants from various ages and backgrounds handcrafted over 30 little books, collected and presented in what one young bookmaker called The best Art City Library I ever saw. Granted, she’s slightly biased as she’s also the self-appointed librarian and creator of library passes, but she couldn’t be more spot-on to describe the quality of the work!

For five evenings, from 4-8PM, kids and adults alike dropped in to create artists’ books in all shapes and sizes filled with stories, poetry, witty comments, drawings, prints, and collages. Within two days, the cushiony area known as the snack corner1 was transformed into an actual library and reading space. Never underestimate the accumulated power of creative individuals to amaze, wonder, analyze, fantasize, and dream, while maintaining a healthy balance of anecdotes, jokes and serious dedication.

Everyone involved really challenged themselves, and each other, to redefine storytelling and bookmaking. For example, a book can expand as long as you keep adding pages to tell your story, and it can be as thin as the space between two covers, or exist out of a single page. It can have text, illustrations, pop-ups, fold-outs, three-dimensional decorations, fabric adornments, and consist of various sorts, colors, and sizes of paper. There can be fictive characters, as well as stories that happen in everyday life. And anything far and beyond and in between:

  • A mouse-shaped book with tiny pop-ups inside, suggesting what the mouse had for dinner: slices of pizza, and a miniature book. Another mouse book by the same author had a short story written on its flesh-colored, paper intestines.
  • A book titled Joke Book, its only contents reading “Ha Ha, you thought this was a real book!”
  • Books about Goldilocks, bears, stinging bees, super heroes, Pokemon characters, boats, bananas, and gardening.
  • A book in which the protagonists are embodied by the actual, physical pages on which they were created, thereby establishing a relationship with the reader: “Oh. Hey ( What are you looking for? You probably would be better off on page 3. I usually just tell people to go to page 3. The reader almost feels hastily pushed away, only to be guilt-tripped into not having moved fast enough a few pages later: “There you are! Where have you been? Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting?”
  • A book with a flying unicorn, and accompanying story: “I had a dream. I was at the store. And I had a pet unicorn. And then an evil witch came. That’s it.”
  • A few collaboratively written books. One featured two children called I Dunno and Stuff, who traveled to Cold Lake Alberta with a UFO only to find trees who had eyebrows just like them. Someone else started a Dream Book and invited others to participate: “One time I gave blood and I passed out. I had a wonderful dream about surfing. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to surfing.”
  • A booklet that was folded into an old cassette tape box. A book shaped like a paper airplane. A collection of clippings held together by a safety pin.
  • A fairy tale written on a cardboard tube. In order to read the entire story one has to keep turning the tube, the book itself, around to get to the next word, rather than turning the page.
  • Inspired by a Tim Burton illustration, a love story unfolded called Hairy and the Smile, in which a monster who doesn’t have a smile meets a girl who has such a big smile that she makes Hairy smile: “The End.”





[ All photos by Inge Hoonte ]

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(1. Every weekday, thanks to the generous donation of a local supermarket, a modest snack is available for all participants to enjoy during the mid-evening break. Served in a special snack corner, snack time is both an effective way to re-energize and regain focus, as well as a smart solution to keeping the art work from being contaminated by food smudges and grubby fingers.)

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For more entries about Inge’s work with Art City participants, please click here: http://www.showingupspeakingout.ca/tag/libraries/. And, to read about Inge’s involvement in the first open workshop on recreation, please click here: http://www.showingupspeakingout.ca/2010/09/what-is-your-favourite-placespace-in-winnipeg/

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