arts

‘Friendly’ bookstore returns scholarly gifts





To find it is not easy: First go up the stairs, through the sliding doors, then past the cardboard statues. Now take a right, climb more stairs, walk down the passageway and you’re there.

The Friends of Art Bookshop is tucked away within the meandering corridors of the School of Fine Arts building. The bookshop is unique, said FOA executive Tom Rhea, offering one of the largest selections of art books in the Midwest, while also being a nonprofit.

“It’s an inspiration for students,” bookstore employee Marci Hughes said.
She said the bookstore brings students and professors together, and is an excellent resource for the IU’s arts community, stocking many books that can’t be found elsewhere in Bloomington.

Full-time staff are assisted by students, who gain experience in the art industry’s business side by working in the shop, Hughes said.

“It absolutely helps you to prepare for a professional career,” said Angela Smith, a student who works in the bookstore as part of the work-study program. “I’ll say that we’re one of the most awesome bookstores in the Midwest.”

The money spent in the bookshop gets reinvested in student scholarships. Hughes said the store has raised more than $200,000 in the last five years.

Fundraising happens elsewhere, too, with the FOA organizing silent auctions of donated works from various collectors.

“One year we got works from an incredible collector,” Rhea said about a generous $30,000 donation. “He had hundreds of pieces in this tiny apartment ... paintings stacked up on his stove, everywhere.”

As well as funding scholarships for students, the FOA organizes field trips to art museums across the Midwest and east coast. In the last five years they have taken students to New York City, Boston and Washington D.C.

The most recent trip was to The Art Institute of Chicago. The excursions are only open to members of the FOA who pay a  $20, one-year student membership for a 10 percent bookstore discount.

The next silent auction, titled “Silent Night,” will be Dec. 11 in the SoFA Gallery.

“I still don’t know what’s going to be donated,” Rhea said. “It always comes together, though.”

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