Local Lending: Minneapolis Lending Library Holds Summer Lending Event For Art Lovers to Borrow Work

Artist: Robert Nicholl
Title: 527 24th Street

Those of a certain age may recall the days when a tiny gallery housed on the fourth floor of Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota lent out artworks for students to decorate their dorm rooms or apartments. The cost? One quarter—at least in 1934 when the program started. The artwork? A variety of original landscapes, abstractions, and figurative works.

That was the Little Gallery, which became the Weisman Gallery, which is now the Weisman Art Museum. The Weisman, now its own Frank Gehry-designed building, still has an art rental program for students, employees, and departments. The fee is now $15 per semester for students. But there’s also another resource for borrowing art. And the artists are local. And it’s free.

The Minneapolis Lending Library (MALL) is nonprofit organization whose mission is “to provide exposure for artists, build ongoing support of the arts, and share the joy of art with all members of our community through the free lending of artwork.” MALL’s is a changing selection of more than 100 contemporary paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics and sculptures by such Twin Cities luminaries as Wing Young Huie, Alec Soth, Nathanael Flink, Liz Miller, and Nicole Hoekstra.

MALL Winter Lending Event; photo by Joni Van Bockel

While the works are housed at a climate-controlled storage unit in Minneapolis, they’re brought out to play several times a year. On Thursday, July 27, MALL will be hosting its Summer Lending Event at Powderhorn Recreation Center, from 5-8 pm. See something you like? It’s yours for three months. The Fall Lending Event will be held Friday, October 27, 5-8 p.m., at the Bryant Square Recreation Center.

Artist: Camille Erickson
Title: A peephole, dressing room, or confessional?

“The majority of the artworks are on loan from the artist,” says director Katherine Smith-Flores. “A growing number, though, have been purchased directly by us from the artist for our permanent collection.” Asked why artists would participate, she adds: “It’s hard to say exactly why. But our program does seem to be growing in popularity with artists. Generally, we hold two open calls a year and receive 15 to 30 submissions each time. Many of the applicants are emerging artists looking to gain exposure and sell their work. When there is a sale, 75 percent goes to the artist (compared to 40 percent at galleries) and the other 25 percent goes back to our programming.”

MALL’s curatorial committee—a group comprised of staff, board, and community members—meets to review and discuss the submissions, she adds. “They consider a number factors, including the very practical (weight, dimensions, and durability) and whether the medium, material, and subject will add to the diversity of the collection. Our goal is to have something for everyone; to provide a wide variety of high quality contemporary artworks that will appeal to a broad audience.”

Artist: Wing Young Huie
Title: Couple with Clouds, Looking for Asian America

Four times a year MALL holds an art lending event. “We invite the public to browse a collection of 110 contemporary artworks at our lending events,” says Smith-Flores. “Once the borrower has found an artwork they love, they fill out a couple of forms, and it’s theirs to display in their home or workplace for three-month period. At the end of the three months, they return the work and are invited to check out another piece. In this way, people are able to experience art in their environment and develop the kind of in-depth appreciation that is only possible through extended viewing.”

During the Summer Lending Event, artist Taylor Champoux will be on hand. She’ll set up a Postcard Print Station where borrowers can carve linoleum blocks and print postcards that will be sent through a Postcard Print Exchange. The Summer Lending Event continues a year-long partnership between the Minneapolis Arts Lending Library and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, during which each of the 2017 lending events will take place at Minneapolis Recreation Centers around the city. See a full schedule of 2017 events here.



By Camille LeFevre


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