Book libraries aren’t the only lenders in town anymore. More options are becoming available for Minneapolis residents—whether you’re looking for a car, tools, toys, or art. Now you can borrow what you need instead of buying it, saving money and reducing waste in the process.
At the non-profit Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library, 1620 Central Ave. NE, in the Thorp Building, you can borrow from a large inventory of tools, use the 500 square-foot workshop space, or attend monthly classes in woodworking, home maintenance, or crafts. The non-profit aims to promote access over ownership.
Need toys? A group of mothers started the Minneapolis Toy Library in 2014. It began as a mobile program and moved to a permanent space, 8 W. 60th St., Minneapolis, in 2016. Its mission is to reduce waste, promote development, and build community.
Seventy pieces of art will be displayed in homes and offices, borrowed by some of the about 115 people who visited an art lending library at Logan Recreation Center on January 27. Visitors from near and far browsed a collection of about 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and sculptures by local and national artists, with the option to borrow one for three months.
“I like to collect but I’m on a limited budget so I collect small things and rotate them around the house,” said Northeast resident Karen Nelson. “This is a great way to test drive, plus it’s a lot of fun.”
The non-profit Minneapolis Art Lending Library (MALL) organizes art lending to provide exposure for artists and build ongoing support for the arts. The Jan. 27 event was part of a year-long partnership with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to hold events at parks around the city.
“Our model definitely hits on the trendy idea of share economy,” said MALL Director Katherine Smith-Flores.
Northeast resident Kelsey Mork and her friend Brian Edgerton were looking for ways to volunteer in the area when they found out about the event and decided to stop by.
“I own a lot of local art,” said Mork. “My family and friends go to Art-A-Whirl and Art Attack every year. We live in this community and are surrounded by artists. We’ve just fallen in love with local artists. I think it’s more valuable to support local artists than to buy from a big box store.”
Smith-Flores said part of the MALL’s mission is to provide exposure and support for the participating artists, so they encourage borrowers to consider purchasing the artwork they borrowed.” Prices start at $50. Seventy-five percent goes to the artist, and 25 percent goes back to MALL’s programming. This is unique, Smith-Flores said, as most galleries have a 60/40 model, taking 60 percent of the sales.
Northeast residents Jacqui and Raymond Dehont liked the convenience of being able to check out their neighborhood and pick up art at the same time. They were looking for local things to do, were interested in visiting the park building, and left with a painting. “I love the neighborhood. I love the people in the neighborhood,” said Raymond. “And it will be nice to bring something in the house for awhile and try it out.”
“By enabling all members of the public direct and long-term contact with works of art, the library provides an equal access art opportunity,” said Smith-Flores. “Free art borrowing is a way for the community to gain familiarity with artwork and learn about the contemporary art community. In particular, if children are exposed and have extended access to original artwork in their own homes on a daily basis, then they may cultivate an appreciation for art and not view art patronage as something out of their grasp. This cannot be replicated in a gallery or museum setting.”
Melanie and Dan Lugo came to the art lending event from White Bear Lake after hearing about art lending on the radio from a nationally syndicated financial advisor who recommended it as a great way to save money. “I heard about it and I just looked up art lending and this popped up, it was perfect,” said Melanie.
“Until we can buy art we will borrow art,” said Dan.
“And with a lending library you get fresh things, too,” added Melanie.
The MALL opened in 2013 at the Ledge Gallery, a domestic exhibition space in the dining room of a south Minneapolis apartment. Mac Balentine, Julia Caston, and Larsen Husby conceived the MALL as a new way to bring art into the lives of community members.
Historically, many public libraries, art societies, and museums across the country would lend out art reproductions and multiples to their patrons, including the Hennepin County Library system, said Smith-Flores. “While there are only a handful of art lending libraries in operation in the United States today, there are a large number of such institutions across Europe.”
In France, she said, a system of artothèques, united under the organization ADRA, has locations in most corners of the country. The MALL, and its modular shelving system, was directly inspired by a visit to the Neue Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin, an art center that operates the largest artothek in Germany and has 4,000 original artworks in its circulating collection. The MALL founders learned about art lending libraries during a study abroad trip to France and Germany and thought it would be a unique model to bring to the Twin Cities.
Former METRO Magazine Web Editor Tom Johnson covered the event for his blog, which he describes as “an excuse to ask honest questions to interesting people.”
“I’ve never actually been to an event by the art lending library before, but a few of my friends mentioned it was worth checking out. I had a hunch there was a good story or two hanging around.” He asked visitors why they chose the art they did and where they plan to hang their art. He plans to post the interviews at stubblemag.com.
MALL Winter Artist Fellows Alyssa Baguss and Jenn Undis were also at the event, showcasing “Repeat After Me,” their project to encourage mindfulness practice through cursive writing. Participants were assigned a hand-bound, limited-edition, letterpress notebook for cursive writing activities. Since cursive writing isn’t emphasized as much anymore, Baguss said, they’re hoping that practicing cursive writing, through prompts written in the notebooks, will help people “pay attention and be mindful.”
“It’s a really nice way for people to slow down,” said Baguss. “It’s almost meditative.”
The MALL posts a call for art submissions and artist fellows on a quarterly basis. The next due date for submissions is March 31.
Attendance at MALL events has been growing steadily. For a full schedule of 2017 art lending events, visit artlending.org. For information about the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library, visit nemtl.org. For information on borrowing toys, visit mplstoylibrary.org.
Below: Art ready to be borrowed. MALL Winter Artist Fellows Alyssa Baguss and Jenn Undis promoted mindfulness through cursive writing in “Repeat After Me.” (Photos by Alicia Scott)