What is the Encyclopedia of Things?

The Encyclopedia of Things is a town-wide art project funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. From September 2017 to December 2019, Guttenberg Arts community-based artist-in-residence Elisabeth Smolarz will visit the homes of 200 participating Guttenberg residents to create a collection of distinct portraits which, together, will build a composite sketch of our town.

Every portrait is anonymous and features groupings of cherished objects selected by each participant for their personal significance. Twice a week, Elisabeth will meet with locals to listen to the stories behind these objects and arrange them in a still life to photograph. These intimate photographs and the stories they capture will be memorialized and celebrated through this project and present Guttenberg’s diverse community to the world.  

Community-based events such as artist talks will also take place during this project. After The Encyclopedia of Things is completed, a catalog will be created and an exhibition of the photographs will travel to several gallery spaces in New Jersey (including The Visual Arts Center of NJ, William Patterson University and the Braddock Park Art Center) before being permanently installed in the Town of Guttenberg’s new Community Center.   

Latest Portraits from 'our town' Guttenberg, NJ

about the our town grant

The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places – achieving these community goals through strategies that incorporate arts, culture, and/or design. Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners deliberately integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work - placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. This funding supports local efforts to enhance quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increase creative activity, and create or preserve a distinct sense of place.


How can I take Part? 

Tell your story and take part in this once in a lifetime project by having your portrait added to the Encyclopedia of Things!

Simply schedule a time and date to participate by filling out the form below. Elisabeth will be visiting Guttenberg every Wednesday and Saturday beginning September 2017. Please also read below the 3 types of objects to consider for this project.


Name *
All portraits will be photographed on location at the participants home. Please provide your address, which must be located within the Town of Guttenberg, NJ
Elisabeth Smolarz will be available to meet residents of Guttenberg every Tuesday at the Guttenberg Resource Center (Galaxy Towers Mall 7002 Boulevard East, Guttenberg, NJ) and every Friday at Guttenberg Arts (6903 Jackson Street Guttenberg, NJ) or your home. Please choose a date that best fits your schedule.
Please select a time for your portrait to be photographed.

There are 3 kinds of objects to consider.

  • Objects that represent people who are important to us. Often times the people are long gone, but not always. They can be Family. Mentors. Lovers. Children. Friends.

  • Objects that are markers of time. Some people keep objects that played a role in transitional periods of their lives. Past and future. They can relate to the Birth of a child. Death of a loved one. College.

  • Objects that are extension of our bodies. There are walkers, glasses, lucky charms, objects of a ritual.

about the artist Elisabeth Smolarz

Immigrating from Poland to Germany, Elisabeth Smolarz grew up on the cusps of two different cultures affected by a communist and democratic system. Consequently, she became involved in the idea of how consciousness and perception is formed by one’s surroundings.

Since then her work has been shown nationally and internationally - in venues such as The Bronx Museum, New York, Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, New York, Galeria Aleksander Bruno, Warsaw, Oberwelt e.V, Stuttgart, Kunsthalle Galapagos New York,  Baden Württembergischer Kunstverein, Photography Triennial Esslingen, Carnegie Mellon, Independent Museum of Contemporary Art (IMCA) Cyprus, Brooklyn Arts Council, Reykjavik Photography Museum, Espai d'art contemporani de Castelló, the Sculpture Center and the 3rd Moscow Biennale among others.

Awards and residencies include the LMCC Swing Space Residency, New York, AIM Artist Residency, Bronx Museum, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen Travel Grant, Karin Abt-Straubinger Stiftung Grant, Sarai Artist Residency, New Delhi, India, Capacete Artist Residency, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Red Gate Gallery Artist Residency, Beijing, Chinavand more.

Elisabeth Smolarz received her BA and her MFA from the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart.