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October 01, 2013

CIA's Traveling Sketchbooks coming to a library, gallery, or museum near you

Exhibition features “absolutely true diaries” of first-year art students.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ann McGuire
Director of Communications
amcguire@cia.edu
216.421.7417

CLEVELAND (Ohio) – An exhibition of Cleveland Institute of Art student sketchbooks is now on view at CIA and will travel together through April to Northeast Ohio galleries, libraries, and a museum, where visitors can interact with these 65 graphic memoirs and vicariously experience the life of a student in the first month of art school.

The CIA Traveling Sketchbook Project opened in the Cleveland Institute of Art Library on Oct. 1, and will remain on view there through Oct. 31, with public viewing from 9:00 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The display will be one of the CIA Library’s exhibitions as part of Octavofest, an annual, multi-site celebration of the book and paper arts in Greater Cleveland (octavofest.org).

The show’s next stop will be the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery at Lorain County Community College, where it will be on view from Nov. 4 through Dec. 6.

Loosely patterned after The Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library in New York City, this project started when CIA’s incoming first-year students were provided with identical sketchbooks over the summer, and instructed to complete them during their first month at college.

The CIA Traveling Sketchbook Project was designed to support this year’s summer reading at CIA, in which the entire college community was invited to join the new students in reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novel by Sherman Alexie, with illustrations by graphic novelist, Ellen Forney.

Closely paralleling the author’s own childhood, it tells the story of 14-year-old Arnold Spirit, Jr., who decides to leave the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white school in a distant town. “The book overflows with memories of life on the ‘rez,’ and is a portrait of harsh circumstances, among them poverty, racism, alcoholism, loss, and bullying. Through these experiences, Arnold begins to get a sense of who he is and where he belongs, and he uses journaling, drawing and laconic wit as his means to create his own understanding of his life,” said Barbara Chira, an instructor in CIA’s freshmen Foundation program and coordinator of the project.

Just as the semi-autobiographical novel is formatted as Arnold Spirit, Jr.'s “absolutely true diary” of his thoughts and drawings about his experiences, these CIA students have been given an opportunity to complete their own “absolutely true diaries” in response to the social and cultural themes presented in the novel, and as a first-semester art student. Their sketchbooks are filled with images and ideas in response to the novel and documenting their first month away from home in art school.

First instituted in the summer of 2012, CIA’s Summer Reading Program helps unite the incoming class through a common experience that begins even before their arrival at CIA. An additional goal was to select a book that might help students, in the context of going to an art school, to begin to examine themselves in relationship to the local and global communities they inhabit. Alexie’s novel was chosen as one which might well support CIA’s Cores + Connections vision, including its growing commitment to community engagement practices in the arts and design.

Students further explored the book’s themes of racism and social justice for Native Americans when Robert Roche presented a lunchtime lecture at CIA in mid-September. Roche is director of the American Indian Education Center in Cleveland.

After the exhibition’s run at the CIA Library and then Lorain County Community College, exhibition venues will include Rocky River Public Library from Dec. 16 through Jan. 31; the Fine Arts & Special Collections Department at Cleveland Public Library from Feb. 10 through March 8; and a grand finale, including student-led visitor activities, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland from March 15 through April 30. Schedule and details are attached.

Public inquiries may be emailed to sketchbookproject@cia.edu.

About CIA

Founded in 1882, the Cleveland Institute of Art is an accredited, independent college of art and design offering 15 majors in studio art, digital art, craft disciplines, and design. CIA extends its programming to the public through gallery exhibitions; lectures; a robust continuing education program; and the Cinematheque, a year-round art and independent film program. CIA’s public programming is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. For more information visit cia.edu.

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