Here at the Library as Incubator Project, we’re always interested in book arts because while they may not always have a direct tie to the library, they certainly embody the idea of using books as inspiration. On a recent trip to the Twin Cities, I had the pleasure of visiting the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which is located in the beautiful Open Book Building in downtown Minneapolis. The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) supports and celebrates the book as a contemporary art form, through exhibits, workshops and public programming. Their mission is not only to promote the book arts, but to engage and educate:
The mission of Minnesota Center for Book Arts is to advance the book as a vital contemporary art form, preserve the traditional crafts of bookmaking, inspire diverse artists and learners and engage audiences in educational, creative and interpretive experiences.
Serving more than 70,000 patrons a year, the MCBA is the largest center for the book arts in the nation. Visitors can view free exhibits, check out the antique printing press, participate in workshops, and visit the reference library and archives. The center works with over 25,000 K-12 students each year, whether it’s in the studio, in school classrooms or in libraries. In fact, when I walked up to the building, the first thing I noticed through the windows was the group of kids marveling at the letterpress and book binding tools as they got ready to work on their own projects.
As I entered the MCBA space, I was struck by the light filled gallery and the energy of several dozen kids chattering and creating. When I visited, the MBCA / Jerome Book Arts Mentorship Series III was on display in the gallery. This program, a partnership between the Jerome Foundation and the MCBA, introduces artists from other disciplines to bookmaking, and invites those artists to incorporate their own artistic practices into the book arts. This series featured poet Meryl DePasquale; sculptor and textile artist Caroline Keefe; photographer Ben Lansky; video artist Amanda Lovelee; choreogrpher, playwrite and director Rachel Perlmeter; and photographer and printmaker Keith Taylor:
On the bright red wall above the MCBA shop, a line of type reads, “A place where books come alive.” This sentiment is the perfect description for what visitors feel and see upon entering. The book arts and the book itself feel very much alive and thriving at MCBA and Open Book, which is inspiring and joy-inducing for this future librarian.
Does you state or community have an organization dedicated to book arts? Are you a book artist, or an artist who works in another area but is interested in artist books? We’d love to hear about it!