warm up for the floating library. free zine-making workshop, sunday, july 10, 1-4 pm

Zines donated to the Floating Library created by youth at Kulture Klub Collaborative.

Zines created by youth at Kulture Klub Collaborative donated to the Floating Library in 2013 .

Zines are simple books with images and text, typically produced via photocopying or other quick printing techniques, and are often used by activists and community artists to convey ideas and stories through this inexpensive medium.

The Floating Library’s collection is full of them, from the all-time favorite Prince Food by Martine Workman to Dogs and Puppys by Astrid, age 9.

At this free workshop, use simple tools like a photocopier, paper, scissors, thread, linoleum blocks and ink to design and print your own zine.  We’re inviting people to bring family photographs, photos of places you have visited, cultural imagery that you relate to, or any other relevant imagery to photocopy and add to your story.

Our host for this endeavor is the East Side Freedom Library, a historic Carnegie library building in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood that now houses a non-circulating collection of books about labor and working class history, Asian, Asian American, African, African American and disaporic histories and much more. Their mission is to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice and work toward equity for all.

A selection of books from ESFL will be on hand for inspiration, images and information about immigrant history in St. Paul’s East Side. Use the photocopier to borrow images from these books, then cut and paste them to tell your own story.

If you wish, your zine can join the collection of the Floating Library and be read by people on Lake Phalen!

Big thanks to Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary of ESFL and to FL 2016 Commissioned Artist Aaron Johnson-Ortiz for teaching!

Family History Zine Making Workshop
Sunday, July 10, 1-4 pm
East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street St. Paul, MN 55106
FREE, all ages welcome

RSVP and invite others on the Facebook event page.

Zines by Astrid, age 9.

Zines by Astrid, age 9.


Sizing up the situation at the lake

We took a holiday trip over to Phalen this weekend to finalize some logistics for the big launch in a few weeks. How long does it take to paddle from the boat launch to the dock? Where are the canoe racks? How long does it take to paddle from the dock to the beach? Where are the bathrooms?

We enjoyed a wide blue sky while making these assessments, introduced ourselves to the boat rental staff and lifeguards and learned a critical piece of information: there is no snack stand at Lake Phalen!

Bring sustenance, dear boaters.


Also, there are still shifts left if you’d like to volunteer as a Floating Librarian. Sign up here, and come to Volunteer Orientation on July 12th.


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: thefloatinglibrary@gmail.com.

The result of 2015's Open Call for books.

The result of 2015’s Open Call for books.




Final push for funding this summer’s Floating Library adventures


Drawing to live music at the Floating & Drawing Fundraiser on March 5. Photo by Jonathan Loyche.

The ice is off the lakes and while the wind is still chilly, the bright spring light signals hope for warmer days. Tulips are coming up under the canoe in the back yard. Time to get in gear to get on the water!

I’m happy to report that the Floating & Drawing Fundraiser I co-hosted in early March with my friends The Drawing Project was a great success. The afternoon was a bustle of activity, the tacos were delicious, the music was energizing and inspiring, the rare on-land exhibition of Floating Library books was packed all night, and the focus of the live drawers (young and old) was captivating.

People made so many drawings we ran out of paper! And we drained the keg!

Big thanks to Jonathan Loyche for being the night’s documentarian and tech assistant. See more snaps here.

Biggest thanks to everyone to came and to your generosity that allowed us to reach our fundraising goal for the night. This, in addition to an MRAC grant the Library was awarded back in January, brings me very close to my overall fundraising goal of $10,000 necessary for Knight Foundations 1:1 match.

I have only $3,000 left to raise!  This is slightly more cash than I can find under the couch cushions so I’ve put up an online campaign. Take a look at the fancy perks –waterproof library card! a boat ride in the Sea Clamp! — and give if you can. And share with those you know who love books on water.

Many, many thanks.

Tacos and beer for your favorite floating book raft: fundraiser on Saturday, March 5!

FloatingDrawing bannerLogo

I recently got back from Los Angeles with my suitcase of books and a plastic duck after a weekend of reading artist books with hundreds of new friends in the SoCal sun and yes, I want to tell you all about it but first I have to raise some money!

You may recall the news from the fall that the Floating Library is the recipient of a Knight Arts Challenge grant. Well, if we’re going to get this thing on the waters of Lake Phalen this summer, it’s time to raise the matching cash.

I’m making this easy and fun for you thanks to a lot of help and energy from my dear friends at The Drawing Project (also Knight winners). We’re joining forces to throw an afternoon into evening fundraising party next Saturday, March 5 at the Schmidt Artist Lofts in St. Paul.

This is what’s in store for you:

-Floating bookmaking workshop with artist Aki Shibata
-Freely improvised instrumental/ambient music curated by Andrew Thoreen of Har-di-Har featuring Noah Ophoven-Baldwin, Andres Crovetti, Andrew Thoreen, Pat Keen
-Individualized poems written by artist Molly Van Avery
-Live drawing projections with Aaron Marx
-Informal and interactive drawing opportunities
-A live improvisational music and drawing performance with poet Steve Healey and wickedly talented artists creating books to be auctioned off at 7:30pm
-Mexican food from Tavial Grill
-A tour of Schmidt’s Historic Well House

All proceeds get us closer to raising our match funds ($10K each) to keep these participatory arts programs alive.

Get your tickets!

Learn to make these boats to float your books at Aki Shibata's workshop.

Learn to make these boats to float your books at Aki Shibata’s workshop.

Pedal out to the Floating Library on Echo Park Lake

Postcard image circa 1900s. From GlamAmor.com

Postcard image circa 1900s. From GlamAmor.com

Don’t get us wrong, we like art on ice, but when the opportunity arose to launch the Floating Library in the warm waters of Echo Park Lake this February, we set straight away to get our ducks in a row for a Los Angeles presentation.

Besides palm trees and sunshine the context for this is Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair, the massive, sprawly, inspiring, overwhelming, wonderful display of art books and bookish art that takes over MOCA Geffen for a long weekend.

Rather than sit inside at a table, we’re taking to the water, naturally. Luckily there is a lake nearby; a lake that’s been featured in Charlie Chaplin films and Chinatown, and one that has hosted a lotus garden since the 1920’s, among other fascinating bits of history. Further reason to be excited is that the watercraft available on this lake is the pedal boat — a form of water transportation the Library has not yet served though it is perhaps the most relaxed mode of water travel.

The materials on view will be drawn from the existing Library collection as well as newly contributed and loaned works by LA-based book makers and designers.
(Stay tuned here for a list.)

This is all made possible by our friends at Machine Project, the storefront for shenanigans down the street from Echo Park.

Additional kudos are due to Bob Dornberger for building a raft based on Molly Reichert’s original design and to Becca Lofchie who’s been a champion of curatorial assistance, rallying LA book artists to loan materials to the Library.

The Floating Library is a project by Sarah Peters, read more here.

Should you be southwest bound for a mid-winter escape pedal on by:

The Floating Library on Echo Park Lake
February 11 – 14, 2016, daily 11 am – 4 pm (or so)
Pedal boat rental available from a historic boat house for $10 / person / hour

Pedal boats at Echo Park Lake dock. Photo by Darrell Kunitomi from theeastsiderla.com

Pedal boats at Echo Park Lake dock. Photo by Darrell Kunitomi from theeastsiderla.com

Thanks MinnPost, you’re standout too + thoughts for 2016

When I opened my computer after four days in the internet-less woods of Northern Minnesota for the New Year’s holiday the first thing I saw was a flood of links and congrats for the Floating Library being named one of the Top 5 Standout Public Art Works of 2015 according to Andy Sturdevant at MinnPost.  Thanks Andy, “more boats” indeed!

I’m proud to share this accolade with some of the best Twin Cities artists I know, including Witt Siasoco, Molly Van Avery and Wes Modes*.

Molly and Witt produced the beautiful and moving project THIS HOME IS NOT FOR SALE. Molly paired poets with families living in formerly foreclosed homes that are part of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust — a collectivized model for affordable home ownership. (It’s the only just way forward, read about it.) Witt designed real estate-style signs that feature each home’s poem coupled with an image. A summer’s worth of sidewalk bbq’s unveiled each front yard sign.

Photo courtesy of Poetry for People

Photo courtesy of Poetry for People

(Full disclosure: I’m lucky enough to live in one of these houses and so get to enjoy watching neighbors read our poetry yard sign every now and again.)

Like a lot of artists who live here, I get frustrated sometimes at how small this place can feel, how there is a lack of deep conversation about certain kinds of art practice and how the “support local” movement can serve to isolate us in a way that demonizes institutions who support artists from elsewhere rather than only artists from here. I’m tired of that divide, and I believe deeply that cross pollination is how we’re all going to deepen our work, forge important connections and make change.

But I’ll say that reading Andy’s post was a bright spot to start off the year (FL acknowledgements aside), that reminds me not to be discouraged about these troubles but to take our generous arts funding and keep pushing.

So happy new year Minnesota artists (and all artists, everywhere). Keep making things, talking to each other, telling the truth, challenging.  Criticize, offer support, reiterate, re-write, re-script. 2016, go.



*Okay, so Wes of A Secret History of American River People technically lives in California, but the depth with which he dove into this community all the times he’s been here to traverse the Mississippi makes him a Minnesotan to me.