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Steven Peterman cofounded the Art House Co-Op in Atlanta in 2006, an “independent company that organizes global, collaborative art projects.” In 2009 he brought the whole thing to Williamsburg (setting up the Brooklyn Art Library as home base), where he enlisted James Vanderberg as Senior Project Manager, to work on ideas like the Sketchbook Project, a mobile library of more than 25,000 sketchbooks (solicited from around the world) that travels around the country spreading the gospel of art. ART! We asked Steven what was so great about “art.”
What neighborhood do you live in, Steven?
I live in Williamsburg with my wife and Thrifty, my cat. We live over by the Graham L. We really love the area. It’s quieter then the Bedford area, but still has some great food and the old Italian charm of the neighborhood.
For people who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what it is you guys get up to at the Art Library?
The main thing we do is create interactive art projects that are open to everyone. We love the idea of a community of people coming together to create something wonderful, rather than singular artists working alone. Our storefront, located in Williamsburg on North 3rd, is home to the Sketchbook Project. It’s our flagship project. The library houses over 25,000 sketchbooks from all over the world. It runs like a reference library with library cards and everything. We also sell notebooks, ephemera, and other vintage goodies we find on our travels.
Why did you get into this crazy project? Do you have a lot of experience with cross-country art tours?
I started the project with my friend Shane back in 2006 in Atlanta. We moved up to NYC in 2009. We really just wanted to find a way to be creative while creating a community of like-minded people. We now have a TON of experience with touring art exhibitions. I have planned and been on five of them...
Is this your dream job? Or do you wish you could be doing something else?
Yes! My wife will tell you that I NEVER stop working or talking about it. It’s like my child. I feel so grateful that I get to do this everyday. I have met some of the greatest individuals and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Which of your personal characteristics make you ideally suited to pull this off? (And which don't?)
I say I'm a perfectionist who doesn't need to do things perfectly. I constantly want to do every idea I have. I will do everything to make it happen, but maybe not perfectly. I think this has been good and bad. Some of my ideas have been more successful then others. Even though I went to college for art, I'm more of a creative thinker than a fine artist. I think it has helped me to succeed a lot more. I'm always thinking and brainstorming with myself.
How long does it take you guys to set up the exhibition when you stop?
Each tour stop takes about two hours to set up. We have around ten 350-LB shelves that we roll in and a bunch of signage and whatnot. The whole tour takes about 18 months to plan and execute. We now have our Mobile Library, which will take the set-up time down to about 10 minutes.
Tell us a bit about Art House Co-Op...
to all of this that we started. This is what creates and produces the Sketchbook Project, runs the Library, and creates all of the other projects we do. The Sketchbook Project is just one the many things we do!