Friday, September 21, 2012

The Intersection of Literary Avenue and Art Street

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagines, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
-Henry David Thoreau

Talk about curious. Last night, while driving a car full of starrrrrrving kids to a restaurant, I spotted people sitting on blankets reading in front of the Museum of Fine Arts. There was a little bus parked nearby and a box on a stand. As I slowed down, I noticed  people had wine in one hand, books in the other and broad smiles on their faces. I had read about the Little Free Library Project that started in Wisconsin. Could that amazing idea of “bring a book, take a book” have spread to Florida?

There were loud protests from my hungry passengers, but I double parked anyway. Sure enough, yes, this was the same concept. Saint Petersburg now has it's very own Little Free Library. It is a wooden box filled with donated books, free to anyone passing by.  Last night’s read-in was organized by Bluebird Books, the brainchild of Mitzi Gordon. Gordon, a former newspaper and magazine journalist, turned art museum curator had read about the same Wisconsin project. It was about the time she was toying with the idea of starting her own business. She imagined opening a gallery that featured writers and artists. A brick and mortar space was out of her budget. In the spring of 2011, she found a little bus and took a loan against her car to buy it. Some creative fundraising among local artists and friends put 3,400 into the passed plate. The little bus was transformed by volunteers into a mobile book shop/art gallery. Bluebird's website describes it as a vehicle where readers of all ages can explore the written word. It is a place to promote literacy and craft.

I asked if Mitzi was living her dream. With a huge grin and sparkle in her eyes, she nodded yes and added, “It is my dream and if I don’t keep this going, I will be living in it.

Good thing the cozy little bus reminds Mitzi of a children’s fort if it ever comes to that. But it won’t. People were thrilled with the idea. Mitzi was hit with questions by three people at once while I was there. She is working on non-profit status and still juggling a day job working for Creative Pinellas. The Tampa resident is also working on logistics like building a board, submitting for grants and finding dry storage for the many boxes of donated books. The busy work is fueled by her vision to create a true venue for local artists who like to tell stories.
Inside this mobile station of inspiration, you will find locally produced book art and hand made “zines”. I admit I had never heard of a zine before. According to Wickipedia, a zine (pronounced zeen) is a small circulation of self published work, usually reproduced by a photocopier. Think magazine, only short, non-glossy and homemade. Gordon also has plans to add a “Creative Poet Project” to her bus. She envisions local poets sitting in front of a vintage typewriter churning out poems for bus patrons while they wait. Think a little rhyme and reason, to go.

Mitzi and her bus are headed to Savannah, Georgia this weekend. But the Little Free LIbrary is permanently posted in front of the Saint Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. I grabbed James Joyce, A Portrait of an Artist as a Child and left in it’s place Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. By the way, I dropped the family off for dinner and came back to double park. Missed most of the meal and got a $25 parking ticket, but well, well worth it for a stop at this new intersection.

Are you pursuing your dream?

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