Minnesota Center for Book Arts and The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library present the Minnesota Book Artist Award Winners

December 16, 2019

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has named a collaborative group as the winner of the 2020 Minnesota Book Artist Award for their collective efforts on the new artist’s book My Mighty Journey: A Waterfall’s Story. This annual award is presented as part of the Minnesota Book Awards with Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), and recognizes a Minnesota book artist or book artist collaborative group for excellence in new artistic work. Winners also demonstrate depth of knowledge and quality in the book arts through supporting previous work, as well as significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.

My Mighty Journey, written by John Coy and illustrated by Gaylord Schanilec, is the story of the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River – and the changes it has witnessed over twelve thousand years. The idea was originally conceived twenty-three years ago as Coy worked for the Minnesota Historical Society, guiding Minneapolis Riverfront tours. Through his words, and eventually his own participation in image creation, text composition, and printing, he brings to life the geology, history, and people of this place, told from the waterfall’s perspective.

Enhancing this dramatic story are stunning images created by a collaboration of book artists using materials collected along the riverbank: wood and bark from fallen trees, fossil-encrusted limestone, discarded bricks, and even a long-dead dogfish. Collected materials were prepared for direct printing, creating type-high printing blocks, inked and impressioned using Vandercook cylinder printing presses. The illustrations show the progression of the waterfall – eventually known as St. Anthony Falls – as it moved fifteen miles upriver from present-day Saint Paul to its current location in downtown Minneapolis. My Mighty Journey helps viewers realize that most of us are newcomers and that there is so much to learn about the waterfall, the land, the people who have been here, and our relationship to them.

The weight and impressive scale of the work fits with the subject. “It couldn’t have been any other way,” stated one juror.

Members of the award committee praised the way that the book clearly demonstrated the great amount of thought and detail that went into every aspect – from the illustration and words to the binding, paper, and typeface – and how the book itself exists as a kind of community, honoring everyone’s best abilities. The committee also commented on how the weight and impressive scale of the work fits with the subject. “It couldn’t have been any other way,” stated one juror.

Anchored by internationally acclaimed artist Gaylord Schanilec, the image development, composition, printing and binding team grew over the five years of this collaboration to include artists Sorcha Douglas,  Barbara Eijadi, Paris Fobbe, Ellen Janda, Hans Koch, Greta Lapcinski, Monica Edwards Larson, Rayan Macalin, Kerri Mulcare, Paul Nylander, and Emily Pressprich, as well as papermaker Amanda Degener.

An exhibition celebrating My Mighty Journey will be on display February 7–March 22, 2020 in the Main Gallery at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, located in Open Book (1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis). A reception will take place on Thursday, February 13 from 6–8pm in MCBA’s Main Gallery, with an artist talk in the Target Performance Hall at 7pm. The group will also receive special recognition and an award at the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards Celebration on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at the Ordway in downtown Saint Paul, sponsored by Education Minnesota.


The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library that connects readers and writers throughout the state with the stories of our neighbors. The process begins in the fall with book submissions and continues through winter with two rounds of judging. Winners are announced at the Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony each spring. Woven throughout the season are events that promote the authors and connect the world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. In recognition of this and its other statewide programs and services, the Library of Congress has recognized The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as the state’s designated Center for the Book. For more information visit thefriends.org/mnba.