About MCBA: History

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MCBA celebrates a proud history and a bright future.

In 1983, a group of book arts practitioners and enthusiasts in the Twin Cities began plans to create an institution, a true book arts center, where artists could create, students could build skills, fine art could be exhibited, and a generally under-acknowledged artistic discipline could be elevated into the public eye and take its proper place in the Minnesota arts community. Two years later, in October 1985, this dedicated group opened the doors of the brand new Minnesota Center for Book Arts. MCBA’s first public home was in the McKesson Building, on North Third Street in the not-yet-gentrified Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis.

The organization thrived in that space, but after fifteen years, it was clear that they had outgrown their home. In the spring of 2000, after more than two years of research and planning, Minnesota Center for Book Arts joined with The Loft Literary Center and Milkweed Editions to become a founding tenant of Open Book, the first comprehensive literary and book arts facility in the nation. The renovated and reinvigorated century-old building was the first cultural landmark of the Minneapolis downtown riverfront, which is now also home to the Guthrie Theatre, Mill City Museum, MacPhail Center for Music and Gold Medal Park. Open Book creates a lively destination for a diverse public interested in books, book arts and literary endeavors of all kinds.

MCBA now serves upwards of 70,000 patrons (including some 24,000 K-12 students) every year, working with groups in our studios as well as in school classrooms, libraries and community events across the state. MCBA is also home to a vibrant working artist community, from college students to retired lifelong learners and everyone in between, at every skill level. Our world-class artistic and community programs include: critically acclaimed exhibitions that are always free to the public; year-round free public programming on engaging topics in the arts and beyond; top-notch artmaking workshops for families; and a dedication to the support of working artists that is simply unmatched in the community. MCBA gives people at every age and every walk of life the opportunity to explore and expand their understanding of contemporary art and book arts.

Our space is easy to get to, but difficult to leave! Explore our antique printing presses up close. Surround yourself with hundreds of drawers of wood and metal type in every size, shape and style imaginable. Learn how artists make paper by hand. Get inspired by the spirit of curiosity and creativity that radiates from a community of working artists. Explore history, technique and innovation in our reference library and collection archives. And don’t miss The Shop at MCBA for a truly unique selection of artworks, broadsides, artist’s books, screenprinted posters, letterpress cards and gifts, miniatures, jewelry, art supplies and so much more.