Showcasing Intimate Imagination: Sketchbooks at MICA’s Decker Library

From the sketchbook of Louis Fratino, Sketchbook Annual Event, 2012

From the sketchbook of student Louis Fratino,  Sketchbook Annual Event, 2013

For the past four years Decker Library, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), has partnered with its Drawing and Painting Department for their popular fall Sketchbook Annual. During the informal event, books from the college community are opened onto folding tables in the lobby of a nearby, large campus building. Many brave artists and several seasoned faculty members share their intimate recorded moments–in line, sometimes in verse, in doodledom, alongside deliberate craft. Since sketchbooks are an integral, and often very private part of an artist’s process, it is rare that others get a glimpse. This is their chance. It has become a unique opportunity, as well, for the library to participate by sharing its own gems from the genre.

According to Professor Howie Weiss, the creator of the event now in its 7th year, it continues to grow in popularity with participants as well as visitors. To his delight they “have to keep adding tables!” After the event, some of his handpicked stars wind up on exhibit in the library’s two upstairs flat display cases for several weeks. Here media varies as does form: ink pen marks swirl ‘round notebooks, pop-up collages sprung from little paper books. There are usually a lot of surprises. The artists, (this year’s participants here) enjoy seeing their work and bringing guests to see their work as well as the other case spotlighting diverse sketchbooks from Decker’s special and circulating collections.

The collaboration began as a friendly conversation between librarian Marianne Sade and Howie Weiss, around the library’s homespun Journals, Sketchbooks and Visual Diaries index. The database was created to provide convenient visual access to examples of the subject in the Library’s collection: master sketchbooks, facsimiles, catalogs of exhibits, and a few “how-to’s,” in a variety of media. Next came the welcome invitation to join the event as an exhibitor. The library usually shares around 75 library books in concert with the many sketchbooks and journals on display. This year, the Library also publicized the event on social media sites (Facebook, tumblr and Twitter) and participation jumped considerably — more than 80 students showed books! The exhibit is in the Library through November 14.

By Marianne Sade, Instruction Librarian, and Katherine Cowan, Senior Reference Librarian

Photos from the 7th Annual Sketchbook Event, courtesy of Meredith Moore, 2014


Visitors view Decker Library books during annual event


Students get a glimpse at classmates’ work


Selections on exhibit at Decker Library


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