Posted on by Steven Savage

(This originally ran at MuseHack, but I had to run it here – a project to make albums that never were.  Sanctumites, this is for you)

Imagine a record shop with records that never were.  It sounds like something out of a Neil Gaiman story, but Toby Barlow of Public Pool has his own vision.  It’s a project for his art collective where artists submit an album cover for a band that never was.  A random L&P will then be labeled and put in these albums – and they’ll be sold (with the artist getting the money).  That’s the kind of crazy art project I can get behind, so let’s talk to Toby!

1) Toby, how did you get involved in all of this?

I’ve been working in and around the arts since I was a kid, I grew up at an artists’ colony called Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York. Actually, my first novel, Sharp Teeth, first began as an idea for an art installation. Then I moved to Detroit and the enormous opportunity for creativity here just gobsmacked me. I’ve been going non-stop ever since.

2) Tell us more about Public Pool.

It’s a collective space put together a few years ago now by some artists and art lovers in Hamtramck, which is its own little city tucked in the heart of Detroit. We’ve had great shows with artists like Scott Hocking, Lauren Semivan, Mitch Cope, The Hygienic Dress League and a ton of others.

3) What other art spaces and collectives can you reccomend – and is there a good way to find them?

There are great art spaces all over Detroit. Popps Packing, in our neighborhood, is fantastic. N’Namdi Gallery in Sugar Hill has spectacular shows. Detroit Artists Market on Woodward is really good. And then there are places like Powerhouse Productions that are worth checking out. And, of course, Heidelberg and MOCAD. I’m only scratching the surface here, and I’m not sure the best way to find them all. We should probably have some Detroit Artists Guide on the world wide web (oh boy, great, another project.)

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4) OK, tell us about the record project. How did you come up with the idea?

We hatched this plot because we we sitting around talking about art and we realized that, for most of us, LP covers were the first real art we put our hands on. It seemed a tragedy that this magnificent form had devolved into being little jpg images in an itunes store. So we thought we would create a show as a celebration to the actual thing itself, an homage, and a chance to recreate the record stores we loved as kids.

Plus, everyone has band names they play around with, or song names, or entire mythologies that they have spun around imaginary characters. We thought we should give artists and designers a show to play with all that.

We thought it was important too to get people to construct an actual cover that we could slip an LP into. We like the idea of buying a bunch of LP’s from the local used record shop, covering the label on the LP with the label made by the artist, and then slipping it into the artist’s cover. It adds some fun and mystery to the thing, cause no one will know what the actual album is and if there is a relation between the fact and fiction. Maybe there will be, maybe there won’t. That’s when art gets intriguing and mind bendingly fun.

5) How has response been so far?

Fantastic. Boing Boing picked up on it early, and that caught a lot of people’s attention. People seem to love it, and there is, of course, a huge maker culture out there of people looking to create actual things. Obviously in a show like this, the more is the merrier, so we hope people will still get the itch to make their own album.

6) You said if you get enough submissions you may publish a book. Are you planning self-publishing?

Well, we’ll see how many entries we get and what the calibre is, it’s one of those things where you don’t know if you have a book until you’re staring right at it. But if Taschen doesn’t want to publish it, we might have to do it ourselves.

7) How can we help promote this idea?

Tell everyone you know. Make your own beautiful LP. Send it to us. We’ll sell it and you’ll make money.

8) Anything you want to share to encourage artists in this crazy time?

This is an amazing time for artists. Everything is beautiful and tragic. I don’t think real artists need any encouragement. They just need to stay off their iphones and get the work done.

Folks, you know what to do . . . and if you don’t, spread the word and enter the contest.

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– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at

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