BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Tucked in Room 120 of the IU Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts building, the Friends of Art Bookshop has been on both the local and national art radar since 1968. Bloomington residents and IU students and staff know it as a great place to get any art book they fancy, plus handcrafted jewelry, greeting cards, and the occasional bagel, while a curator on the West Coast might depend on it to get an obscure monograph on Abstract Expressionism.
“Barry Gealt, IU professor emeritus of art, said we were his favorite art bookstore next to Pompidou’s [the Paris cultural arts center], which is pretty flattering,” says Colleen McKenna, bookshop manager and executive director of Friends of Art, the shop’s parent organization. “Our inventory is as broad and deep as our limited space allows, and what we don’t have in stock, we can usually find. Service is something we offer—knowledgeable, hands-on assistance, and the benefit of buying locally.”
McKenna and Marci Hughes, the shop’s assistant manager, both have IU art degrees and are the shop’s only full-time staff. About a dozen students work there part time. “A lot but not all of them are art majors. All we ask is that they become invested in the shop. Most of them start working here as freshmen and stay with us until they graduate,” says McKenna.
McKenna is the shop’s book buyer, and Hughes buys the jewelry and gift items. “I look for things that are well-designed, beautiful, affordable, and, whenever possible, locally made,” says Hughes.
The shop is a branch of the Friends of Art (FoA), a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1965 to support the School of Fine Arts (SoFA). IU provides the shop space free of charge; in turn, all proceeds from shop sales go toward scholarships and SoFA programming. FoA members receive a 10 percent discount on shop merchandise and advance notice of exhibitions and events at the Grunwald Gallery (formerly the SoFA Gallery) and IU Art Museum, and other benefits.
“Members receive a 20 percent discount in the shop during December, so this is an ideal time to join,” says Hughes.
For more information, visit the FoA website at fa.indiana.edu/foart or the Friends of Art Bookshop page on Facebook.