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.






Photo by David Eberhardt.

Photo by David Eberhardt.

Hooray! Thanks to many generous individuals, the FL’s final funding push made its goal this weekend. Now we’re set to gather up the Knight Foundation matching dollars. There’s a bit of paperwork ahead, but that can’t be harder than towing a raft with a canoe full of books in the wind during a downpour.



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

Postcard image circa 1900s. From

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

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

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.




The Floating Library wins Knight Arts Challenge grant. St. Paul, here we come!

Lake Phalen circa 1940's. Postcard from

Lake Phalen in St. Paul, MN circa 1940’s. Postcard from

Last week the Knight Foundation announced the winners of the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge, a matching grant that supports individual artists, arts orgs and really anyone who can get it together to make art happen in the City of St. Paul. The Floating Library is among these winners!  I attended the fancy awards ceremony where in addition to being gifted a glass plaque I met many of the other awardees who are cooking up fascinating projects for our state’s capital city. 

My grant proposes to bring the Library to Lake Phalen, one of St. Paul’s largest lakes. Phalen is of interest because it has a history of boating, once playing host to many hundreds of canoes on its shores.

"Lake Phalen canoe docks.” Photographer: Sweet, date: ca. 1905. Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection, Location No. GV3.61C

“Lake Phalen canoe docks.” Photographer: Sweet, date: ca. 1905. Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection, Location No. GV3.61C

These days at Phalen you’ll find Dragon Boat races, sculling lessons, and a lot of people fishing. Of course, our goal will be to bring back those 880 canoes, all headed out to read on the water.

There is a lot of planning and organizing to be done, including raising the matching funds. If you have ideas for artists, partners, or connections in St. Paul, be in touch. For instance, who lives near Phalen and has a motor boat? We’ll need of a tow or two.


Find the Floating Library on land in Philadelphia through Nov. 1st

People in reading room

For those Floating Library fans who’d rather peruse the shelves from the stability of solid ground, make your way to Philadelphia this month where a selection of FL books are on view. They’re part of a reading room at Vox Populi gallery, one of several sites to host exhibitions and programming as part of a city-wide project called Alternative Currencies. 

Our friends at Possible Press invited the FL to contribute a selection of books that now have the special designation in the catalog of being “drowned and rescued.”  Wrinkled and mildly faded with their taped spines and we’re gonna survive attitude, these books were packed into a Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum box and shipped off to Philly right before the Pope landed ashore there in mid-September.

Reading Room at Vox

In the gallery the shelves mimic laundry drying racks and the FL flag flies windless while pinned to the wall. You’ll find favorites such as Areca Roe’s 3-D viewfinder set, Jess Zeglin’s Friendly Microbe Coloring Book, and the two books that were dipped twice: A Book Dipped in Two Lakes (intentionally), Flood Music (unintentionally).

Alternative Currencies is a gathering of independent contemporary arts groups from around the U.S. to talk about what it means to stay “alternative.”  I’m sad to not be there for the discussions, as this question didn’t get as much play at last month’s otherwise overwhelmingly enriching Hand-in-Glove conference.

It’s certainly on the brain of the Floating Library now, as the cold, dark creeps in and we try to find a wood-burning stove around which to write grants, dream and plan for the future. (Some exciting news coming soon…). ‘Til then, give us a report from Philly if you happen to stop by!

Sailor Jerry


Let’s end with the moon and some poems.

From Stephanie Rohlfs' "First Artist-in-Residence on The Moon", Lunar Artists' Residency Vol. 1

From Stephanie Rohlfs’ “First Artist-in-Residence on The Moon”, Lunar Artists’ Residency Vol. 1

The Library was short and sweet and sweaty this year. We’re ending on a cool note, or with a lack of blazing sunshine anyway. Join us for a Moonlight* Paddle and Poetry Reading this Saturday, August 1, beginning at 8:30 pm.

Docked just off the tip of Silverwood’s Picnic Island, the raft will serve as a floating stage shared by three writers. Poet-in-residence Steve Healey will share some of the “floating poems” contributed by Library visitors as well as his own words; Kathryn Kysar will read from her collection Dark Lake, which graced the Library shelves and narrowly avoided drowning by being checked out, and Library volunteer, actual librarian and writer Clarence White will share his work. Come and listen from sea or from shore.

Some details, should you be curious:
Canoes, kayaks and some inflatable rafts are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis courtesy of Three Rivers Park District beginning at 8:30 pm.

The reading will begin around 9 pm.

All Silverwood boats will be adorned with lights and ropes for tying up into a flotilla for listening

All paddlers, including those bringing their own boats, will be asked to wear glow bracelets for safety.

The reading can be heard from land.

Because this event is at dusk into darkness, the Library’s collection will not be on view.

After the reading join us for a camp fire on Picnic Island.

This event is presented in collaboration with the incredible Coffee House Press and CHP In the Stacks. Many thanks to Chris Fischbach, Jay Peterson and everyone at Coffee House for their support.  (CHP wins the award for Most Staff Members Participating as Volunteer Floating Librarians, 2015)


*Technically the full moon is on Friday, but that night is the Boat Ballet on the Mississippi River with which we’d be fools to compete!  Choreographed by Patrick Scully, organized by Scully and Kalen Keir and “danced” by 99 paddlers in canoes, kayaks and paddle boards, this is a dream summer time water happening. I’m proud to say that the Library’s own Sea Clamp will provide on-water technical transport to the ballet’s musicians.  See you there too!

Kayaks paddle in a geese-like V-formation during Patrick Scully's boat ballet on the Havel River at Potsdam, Germany in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Scully, cribbed from

Kayaks paddle in a geese-like V-formation during Patrick Scully’s boat ballet on the Havel River at Potsdam, Germany in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Scully, cribbed from