The MakerLab and Brandeis Arts Engagement recently launched the Brandeis Art Exchange, where students can use and donate items for creative projects contained in a small wooden structure outside of the Usdan Student Center. The structure is modeled after the Little Free Library program, which is an initiative originating from the Little Free Library nonprofit organization seeking to promote access to reading across communities. Director for Research Technology and Licensing Ian Roy and Director of Arts Engagement Ingrid Schorr shared further details about the project and its origins in an interview with The Hoot.
Schorr noticed a free art supply station in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts and was inspired to bring this idea to the Brandeis community. During the summer of 2022, members of the Creative Arts division, the MakerLab and the Research Technology and Innovation department collaborated to launch the Art Exchange. Additionally student support came from Mello Wilsted ’22, who established the initiative’s logo, and Joshua Aldwinckle-Povey ’23, who was also a member of the design team.
Through input from Vice President of Campus Operations Lois Stanley, the team decided on locating the Art Exchange on the lawn near Usdan since it would not impede student traffic and did not interfere with the sprinkler system underground. Facilities Administration members Chris Gould, Anthony Matia and William Fitzgerald helped secure the structure. Schorr explained her thinking regarding the location of the Art Exchange, saying, “I wanted the craft library to be located centrally, not attached to or inside any building. I wanted it to be truly part of the campus landscape, like a bench or a path.”
Once the logistics of implementing the structure on campus grounds were established, Schorr and Roy brainstormed design ideas for the adapted Little Free Library. Roy built the cabinet box, roof, door and post of the structure using pocket hole joinery for easy deconstruction and modifications. He noted, “The cedar shingles are actually leftover shingles from my home!” Wilsted, Schorr and Roy applied the finishing touches with staining and design elements.
The structural elements of the Art Exchange library reflect the goals of the initiative itself; the post is a permanent fixture so this space will continue to cater to student engagement, however, the cabinet box is not permanent, allowing for the project to evolve over time. Some of the preliminary ideas that Roy shared were changing the designs of the cabinet box for different seasons and themes. He hopes to integrate MakerLab technology such as laser cuts, vinyl cuts, 3D prints and even electronic elements from the Automation Lab to the art exchange library in the future. “It could someday even have a web-enabled digital display or a weather station…Whatever students can imagine, the MakerLab will support!” he added.
Student participation in the Art Exchange program ranges from consuming and donating materials to sharing consequent artwork made using those supplies. “We hope to highlight student work through @createatbrandeis on Instagram and using the Arts Engagement Brandeis Arts Exchange website,” wrote Roy. Additionally, students can reach out to Arts Engagement to share future ideas or feedback to the team, Schorr added.
Schorr emphasized the fun, experimental nature of the project, saying, “I want to make it easy and fun to experiment with art materials in a spontaneous way. The exchange is meant to be literal, as well. If people have extra materials they’d like to share, here’s a place to do so. Art is community care, after all.”
Reflecting on this project, Roy concluded, “One of my department’s core values is about supporting open and free hardware and software for teaching, learning, research, and entrepreneurship. It was a personal dream of mine to someday make a Little Free Library, and this is a way cooler application of that Open Source Hardware movement than I could have imagined…It has been amazing to work with Ingrid Schorr, Mello Wilsted and the rest of the team that made this possible. I would like to also thank the Brandeis Library, the Brandeis Arts Engagement, and Brandeis Facilities for supporting this and other work in the Brandeis MakerLab – we can’t wait to see what our community makes!”