Say you're enjoying opening night at The Big Show, Lawndale Art Center’s annual spotlight on lesser-known local artists. You spend time looking at the show’s 52 works, admiring the way each artist uses light, how a piece reflects a place you've been to, the unique use of metal or oil painting in the piece. Wouldn’t it be cool, you think, to take one of these works home?
Now you can.
The Lawndale Lending Library is a new program, launched in conjunction with The Big Show, to allow a select group of members to borrow art from the show. Think of it in terms of a traditional library, except with art instead of books: Members can borrow pieces for three months, return the works, and then select another. After 12 months, an auction will take place. This concept—long a staple of university art collections—has seen a national resurgence as a way to build the next generation of art collectors.
The Lawndale version comes via Nick Barbee, who launched Galveston's Art Lending Library in 2016. That program was a response to his relationship with art growing up.
“I’m from Washington D.C., and I remember jumping on the Metro and being able to visit the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery, and I felt this ownership of these works—I was able to visit them so often," he says. "I wanted to transfer that feeling, while challenging this idea that only people with lots of money can build art collections.”
Lawndale members can join the lending library for $100 for year. Those who aren’t members will pay $125. Barbee says the library is both a way for people to support local artists and to have the experience of having art in their homes.
“People can take out one piece at a time, and we’ll have a selection of between 30 and 50 pieces,” he says. “So, we want to keep the membership small, so people have access to the artworks.”
Barbee says he hopes the library helps people better understand why art—and supporting artists—matters.
“There’s just an incredible feeling you get when you live with an art piece,” he says. “This helps people understand that there are ways into having art that don’t involve writing a large check.”
The Big Show, Sept. 15–Nov. 11. Lending events kick off Dec. 1. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main St. For any lending library questions, please contact Emily Fens at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 713-528-5858.