Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Introducing the Minneapolis Art Lending Library

by Amelia Foster

Founded in 2013, the Minneapolis Art Lending Library is a collection of about 110 pieces of original artwork that are available to the public for free, three-month loan periods. We aim to provide a new model for artists to showcase their work and build a following, while also cultivating a new audience of art supporters. Below, some more details in an interview with co-founder, Larsen Husby. 

Robert Nicholl | Title: 527 24th Street

Amelia Foster for the LAIP (AF): Tell us about the Minneapolis Art Lending Library– what’s the goal of it? 

Larse Husby (LH): Our mission is to “provide exposure for artists, build ongoing support for the arts, and share the joy of art with all members of our community through the free lending of artwork.” We believe that there is value in living with a work of art, observing it over a long period of time and seeing it interact with the environment of the home. This kind of long-form viewing is hard to come by unless you can afford to buy lots of original art. We hope to provide access to this particular form of art engagement with a wider audience by making it free to borrow original works of art. Additionally, we aim to provide a unique and beneficial form of exposure for artists, allowing them to showcase art in a new format. Through our project, we hope to build support for the arts by connecting artists and art lovers, and introducing our community to the joys of living with art. 

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

AF: How did this idea come together? 

LH: Our three co-founders – Mac Balentine, Julia Caston, and myself – met while studying abroad in Europe. We visited the Neue Berliner Kunstverein, an art center in Berlin which operates an art lending program for residents of the city. Inspired by this democratic approach to art access, we decided that such a program might be popular in Minneapolis, with its enthusiastic embrace of community arts. In 2013, the MALL assembled a small collection of artwork, and began lending it to the public out of Mac’s and my living room. Seeing people’s interest, we quickly reached out to partner with other organizations, and soon were hosting events at established art venues. We incorporated as a nonprofit in 2015, and now have a part-time staff of three people in addition to a board of directors. We have continued to collaborate with other venues, and this past year the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation has generously hosted our events at recreation centers across the city

Lending event photos by Joni Van Bockel
AF: Tell us about your artists and your patrons– how are you serving each side of this art exchange?  

LH: We designed this operation to serve both sides, borrowers and artists. It’s easy to see what the borrowers get out of it – free art! We know we are asking a lot of artists, so we aim to make the opportunity worthwhile. There is no fee to submit images or to participate, and artists may choose to donate or lend their work to the MALL. Artists who loan their works may list them for sale, and we provide this information to borrowers. MALL takes a 25% commission on sales, a rate well below commercial art galleries. We have sold a number of on loan works to borrowers who fell in love with their art, and still others seek out more of the artist’s work after borrowing a piece. In addition to participating in our circulating collection, MALL also runs a paid Artist Fellowship, which invites artists to run creative programs during our events. 

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

AF: What’s coming up for the Library that you’re excited about? 
LH: Our next Lending Hours will be held on Thursday, July 27th, 5pm to 8pm, at the Powderhorn Recreation Center, 3400 15th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407. You can drop in anytime to browse our collection and pick an artwork to take home with you. More information on our website, artlending.org. The event is completely free, but we welcome a donation of $5 per person, either in cash at the event or anytime via our Paypal.


Credit: Joni Van Bockel


The Minneapolis Art Lending Library (MALL) was conceived by artists Mac BalentineJulia Caston and Larsen Husby as a new way to bring art into the lives of community members.

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