MCBA On The Road Abroad
Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) is an international leader in the field, attracting master artists from around the world to share their skills and insights with Minnesota artists, as well as creating opportunities to extend the organization’s artistic collaboration and educational reach around the globe. Profiled below are two recent international collaborations.
MCBA On The Road in Egypt
MCBA Executive Director Jeff Rathermel and University of Minnesota art professor Diane Katsiaficas recently returned from Egypt, where they presented a book arts workshop at the Alexandria Library for a group of enthusiastic and engaged participants, including art and design faculty from Alexandria University and graphic design professionals from Cairo.
This opportunity was made possible by the U of M’s Imagine Fund grant program through an ongoing partnership with the Alexandria Library. Imagine Fund programs sustain and enliven arts and humanities research by supporting scholarly and creative projects that benefit the University community and communities beyond.
Egypt has a long and rich history of early developments in paper, book, poetry and design; workshop participants were eager to explore expansion of these traditions into contemporary artists’ books. Rathermel shared content from MCBA’s exhibition The Contained Narrative, demonstrating the broad definition of “book” in contemporary artistic practice. Then he and Katsiaficas led participants in explorations of the book’s many forms — the class began with a collaborative book, then participants developed individual projects incorporating mixed media and experimental digital printing on surfaces such as tin foil.
Now back in the United States, Rathermel and Katsiaficas will lead a group of Minnesota artists in developing artistic dialogues and collaborative works with the participating Egyptian artists.
A sampling of artist’s books by workshop participants.
Left to right: Ahmed Senbal, Alia Bassioni, Sarah Abdelmaksoud
Left to right: Esraa El-Naggar, Asma Haggad, Hady Boraey
Left to right: Atef Zaki, Reem Noaman, Sarah Abdelmaksoud
Left to right: Mahmoud Elshamy, Sara El Akkad, Kamila Bassioni
Officials at Alexandria University have expressed great interest in a continued relationship, particularly in future workshops focusing on papermaking. Additionally, exciting new connections have been formed with program managers at Townhouse, a Cairo non-profit organization that offers art workshops, free community events, a wonderful gallery space, performance spaces, a shop selling work by local/regional artists, and even a communal kitchen. The MCBA community looks forward to the exciting potential of future partnerships and collaborative opportunities with both organizations.
“MCBA has time and time again proven its leadership in the field by championing the book arts locally, nationally, and internationally” Rathermel states. “Diane and I are thankful for the support from the University of Minnesota that made this project possible. I am confident that the foundation we have established with colleagues in Egypt will serve as a firm base for future collaborations. Now, more than ever, it is critical that artists participate in grass roots diplomacy by creatively promoting communication, understanding, and community between nations and cultures.”
Work produced by the participating Egyptian artists is on view at Minnesota Center for Book Arts during summer and fall 2015, including during MCBA’s Book Art Biennial 2015. A larger exhibition of work created by both Minnesota and Egyptian program participants will be held at the University of Minnesota in February 2016. If you are interested in learning more about this program and/or supporting future initiatives, please contact Jeff Rathermel at email@example.com.
MCBA On The Road in Amsterdam and the U.K.
MCBA’s international presence extended this fall to The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Throughout August and September 2015, Jeff Rathermel, MCBA’s Executive Director, is conducting research and working with artists in Amsterdam, Bristol, Staffordshire, London, Brighton and Edinburgh.
To gain insights into better ways to represent artists in respect to the selling of work, Rathermel has met with Jan Voss, one of the original founders of the 30-year-old Amsterdam artists’ books institution Boekie Woekie.
In Bristol, Rathermel worked with staff at the University of the West of England’s Center for Fine Print Research to provide demonstrations of traditional Japanese papermaking. Established in 1998, the CFPR conducts internationally acclaimed practical research into the artistic, historical and industrial significance of creative print practices, processes and technologies, involving collaborations with a variety of practitioners, institutions and commercial users. The center’s research is based on the production of the physical artefact, centering around all aspects of technology that relate to the core philosophy of making.
Rathermel also visited John Randle, the founder of The Whittington Press and publisher of the influential typography and printing journal Matrix. In June 2015, the University of Minnesota Libraries acquired the archive of Whittington, making it the only repository in North America to hold a complete set of works by the press. MCBA will host an event with Randle in Spring 2016, a wonderful way for Randle to share with our community the long history of Whittington and the production of the lauded publication.
Left: Copies of the latest issue of Matrix, packaged for shipping
Right, upper: John Randle of The Whittington Press
Right, lower: Footprints marking the spot where MCBA’s antique Alexandra iron hand press once stood at The Whittington Press
In London, Rathermel will work with artists at the London Centre for Book Arts, an artist-run, open-access studio providing education programmes for the community and access to resources for artists, designers and makers. Like MCBA, their mission is to foster and promote book arts and artist-led publishing through collaboration, education, and by providing open access to printing and bindery facilities and a space for hands-on experience, knowledge sharing and skills exchange.