Exhibition Review: “Airing Out Our Drawers: 50-ish Years of CalArts’ History and Creativity from the Library and Institute Archives”
Library Exhibitions Review, Issue 1, March 2023
Raeshelle Cooke, Student at the University of Kentucky,
“Airing Out Our Drawers” is both a physical exhibit at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and an online exhibit in the form of a zine and library guide (Libguide) companion. This review will focus on these two digital components.
The colorful digital zine (zine definition here) is a creative and playful way to showcase the variety of materials–much of it created by CalArts faculty, students and alumni– available at the CalArts Library, including rare and unique materials within their archives and special collections, in addition to performance scores, oral histories, artists’ books, print books, periodicals, and CDs and LPs. Library services such as research help, color printing, and loans, are highlighted as well.
The Libguide, which was created as a companion to the physical exhibition, provides online viewers a sneak peek into the physical exhibit, while also teaching students and faculty where they can access the various art works, books and music materials displayed in the zine. The Libguide is a good companion reference, and it can be accessed via the QR code on the zine’s first page. The librarians and library staff intend the zine and Libguide to encourage students and faculty to be inspired by their campus collections, history and creativity of their community. Artists outside the university can also use the zine and Libguide to learn about the CalArts Library and the creative artworks at their disposal. Library staff hoping to inspire their own research and learning communities may want to emulate the strategies employed here.
This digital zine is an interactive flip book that looks to be made with paper material. It’s a visual experience with splashes of bright and dark colors, unique handwriting, arresting photos of interesting people, scenes, and animals, combined with colorful, attention-grabbing descriptions. It’s also an aural experience: when one clicks to go to the next page of the display, an audible and pleasing air puff is heard, indicating a page turning.
The Libguide companion is more organized than the zine. It includes tabs with more detailed information about the exhibit, the six CalArts schools, and selected CalArts publications. If viewers are captivated by the resources and diverse perspectives displayed in the zine, they should head to the Libguide to learn more. For example, the Special Collections page of the zine features Miriam Schapiro’s Art: A Woman’s Sensibility, from the Institute’s Feminist Art Program, as well as Hannah Lawton’s Readers, from the School of Film & Video. The collections clearly promote a wide range of artistic voices, from radical perspectives, to subject areas in legality, administration, fiscal topics, and education; students and faculty will appreciate the history that’s been recorded and then preserved by the library. Even viewers not affiliated with the university, who are interested in delving deeper into these viewpoints, can enjoy a multitude of titles by visiting the “Critical Studies” tab in the Libguide. This section includes programs in Aesthetics and Politics, Creative Writing, and General Education, to name a few.
The intentional hand made feel of the zine means that photos are lacking in visual details. However the accompanying Libguide provides high quality digital images of some of the posters on display within the Library. The viewer of this online display leaves informed of CalArts’ unique collections, the history of the pieces, and where to access them. Most importantly, one leaves inspired to create. The zine creators prompt viewers to do so in the zine’s last spread, titled “Research + Artmaking = “ in which they ask viewers to complete the following exercise:
“Write, draw, or otherwise articulate ways you might use the CalArts Library resources to fuel your creative practice.”
CalArts Library; Samuel Crawford, Joan Jocson-Singh, Susan Lowenberg, Sam Regal, Christine Rosa, Lyssa Dueker, and Autumn Wyatt, Airing Our Our Drawers: 50-ish Years of CalArts’ History and Creativity from the Library and Institute Archives Exhibition Catalog Zine, online flipbook, January 29, 2023