One of the true joys of working on the Floating Library project, aside from cleaning lake mud off the anchor and applying sunscreen every 15 minutes, is working directly with artists to help them realize new work based on the context of a lake-based library.

Grants from the Knight Foundation and MRAC provide funds for commissioned works this year, and I’m excited to announce that the Floating Library is providing support to four stellar artists to create new books for the Library’s collection.
Here they are!

Tou Yia Xiong's Animal Flash Cards

Tou Yia Xiong’s Animal Flash Cards

Tou Yia Xiong is an illustrator and designer working across multiple creative disciplines. He has experience in graphic design, game development, and product design. By day he is an award-winning children’s toy designer. By night, he is a creative force, doing freelance work, exploring art community engagements, and tinkering on personal and collaborative projects.

Caitlin Warner, Mirror Book

Caitlin Warner, Mirror Book

Caitlin Warner is an artist working in the realms of sculpture, printmaking and bookish things.  Her work has been supported by a MSAB Artist Initiative Grant, the Made Here showcase and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Some of Caitlin’s artist books are among the favorites of Floating Library visitors: Untitled (Love Letter) – text message conversation books, Untitled (Mirror Book) – the book made entirely of mylar, and A Manual for Modest Living – a palm-sized piece that reminds us of all we need to get through each day (inhale, exhale…).

Martine Workman's All The Trees

Martine Workman’s All The Trees

Martine Workman is a DC-based artist making books, drawings and animation. She has been participating in small press fairs across the country since 2004. She is a graduate of California College of the Arts. In 2013, she was a VCCA fellow and exhibitor at the New York Art Book Fair. In 2014, she was a Sondheim Artscape Prize semi-finalist, 3rd place Trawick Prize recipient and was awarded the DCCAH Artist Fellowship Grant for 2015.  Martine’s fanzine Prince Food is an all time Floating Library favorite, and one that may need an honorary shelf this year.

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz became an artist and organizer shuttling between southern Mexico, where he worked as a volunteer artist with Zapatista cooperatives, and the American Midwest, where he has worked with unions, immigrant rights organizations, and other social justice causes.  In his personal art practice, he probes the liminal spaces in between history and fiction, as well as racial and national identities through narration and abstraction, using both visual and literary devices.

For his Floating Library commission, Aaron is creating a his-story book that explores issues of exile, solidarity, and oblivion through the vehicles of water, light, and walking.

Aaron is also the Artist-in-Residence at the East Side Freedom Library, one of the FL’s community partners for this summer’s programming.  ESFL is a historic library building on St. Paul’s East Side with the mission to make St. Paul’s labor and immigrant histories accessible to everyone. Go visit them sometime!


Stay tuned for in-process images and descriptions as they get into the studio and start designing, printing, folding, imagining.



Get out your paper knives and warm up the copy machine. The Open Call for Books is open.

Since the beginning of the Floating Library in 2013, the Open Call has provided the paddling public with exquisite and surprising works of book art.  The response from artists far and wide who are willing to donate their works to the FL’s collection is what has made this project a success.  Thank you, brave artists everywhere, for making beautiful things in the first place and sharing them, generously, with us.

Whether you’ve submitted before, or this is your first time, take a read through the “guidelines” as a few things have changed. We also have some specific, yet optional, themes we’re focusing on this year, including:

  • water (well, always…)
  • fishing
  • Lake Phalen and St. Paul’s immigrant history
  • the environment / climate change

We’re also looking for artist-made books that are kid friendly.  (Not regular children’s books, lovely as they may be.)

The deadline for submissions is June 15, but books will be accepted on a rolling basis until then.  If you have questions about the submission process or if you want to talk about a book project you have in the works, email:

The result of 2015's Open Call for books.

The result of 2015’s Open Call for books.