When one of Lacey Haslam’s mentors, the artist Seb Hamamjian, died in 2013, she watched his belongings scatter. Family and friends acquired bits and pieces. Some items were discarded. Haslam soon became fixated on the thought that no one really knows the meaning of an object to another person. “There’s so much that can get lost in translation,” says Haslam, 35, an adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
That idea sparked the Archive of Creative Culture, a collection of books presented in an Airstream trailer. Now living in Camp Washington, Haslam began the collection by asking her mentors from the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned a master’s degree in studio art, to donate a book integral to their creative process. She asked for the original copy; each donor filled out a card explaining the book’s significance. Haslam also asked donors to nominate three others to add books to the compilation.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” Haslam says of the 50-plus-book archive. “I haven’t opened it just to artists and painters, but architects and writers—anyone who has sought creative drive.”
The House Book by Terence Conran
This book led Cincinnati-based artist Jenny Roesel Ustick down a rabbit hole of imagination when she first found it years ago. It still influences Ustick, an assistant professor at DAAP, who led the design and production of several murals around Cincinnati, including Mr. Dynamite, the colorful depiction of James Brown on the corner of Main and Liberty streets.
The Gift by Lewis Hyde
One of the first books Haslam received was The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by poet and cultural critic Lewis Hyde. Haslam reached out to Hyde for permission to use excerpts from the book, and, on a whim, asked if he’d donate a book. Hyde sent The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies by Marcel Mauss, which inspired Hyde’s work.
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Rapper and artist Napoleon Maddox formed the experimental hip-hop/jazz ensemble ISWHAT?! in Cincinnati in the fall of 1996. He released Checkin Us with French producer DJ Sorg in March, and his work has been commissioned by universities, festivals, and art institutions around the world. Maddox says, “We all need this book.”