By: Alisha Martindale
Almost one whole year ago in April, the Hamden Department of Arts and Culture and the Hamden Public Library asked Hamden residents to record their daily, pandemic-life experiences in any artistic or creative way they could think of (as long as it didn’t include glitter). The Hamden Historic Sketchbook project, inspired by the real Sketchbook Project of Brooklyn, is a collection of artist sketchbooks by Hamden residents of all ages, documenting the collective joys, sorrows, astonishments and hopes of a community throughout a shared, global experience.
Each participant received (either by mail or delivery by a Hamden librarian) one 4-inch by 5-inch brown, craft-paper sketchbook with about 24 pages front to back. They also received an illustrated mini Zine with instructions to be as creative as they wished, incorporating any kind of artistic medium or literary style as long as they did not use glitter (for the sake of keeping nearby books, shelves, flooring and librarians from being covered in glitter for years to come).
When asked why it is important to document Hamden’s history, Nazeli Beg said, “because it’s a cool history. So people in the future can learn about the past.”
“I’m more of a crafter than an artist, says resident Clarice Yasuhara so my little book has a lot of mixed media: stickers, watercolor, markers, collages, acrylic, stamps, doodles, quotes, yarn, etc. It evolved to something more than just a sketch book, it’s that plus a scrapbook and a journal and something pretty personal”.
Beth Lovell commented, “As the sketchbook began to fill up, I gained momentum, and while it is not a complete story of my time in quarantine and my particular experience, it was, like a sketchbook should be, a great place to test ideas, and it was satisfying to see this modest project to its final page. (Even though it is not the end of the story by any stretch!) For many years, I had a daily art practice and posted my drawings online nightly. That was a habit I had fallen out of, but this project has reignited my desire to tell visual stories and I hope to incorporate some of these ideas into a longer format.”
“This pandemic…” continued Lovell, “…has brought to light a more fluid and inclusive notion of what “history” is. Journals, sketchbooks, memoirs, blogs, videos, tweets, online stories, and phone footage can be seen and shared and communicated in ways that connect us in these uncertain and isolating times, to celebrate our uniqueness and that which we have in common.”
“Years from now when historians or a person’s grandchild wants to know what it was like to live through this pandemic, there will be this special library collection,” adds Melissa Canham-Clyne, Director of the Hamden Public Library.
All returned sketchbooks were digitized for public viewing and are available as a stack item for checkout at the Hamden Miller Library. Sketchbooks were donated by a very generous, anonymous donor.
All sketchbooks in the collection can be viewed here: https://www.hamden.com/708/The-Hamden-Historic-Sketchbook-Project