Visual Meets Verbal: The MCBA Prize, An International Artist’s Book Award, Garners Submissions From Across the Globe

January 15, 2020

The 2020 award will culminate in an exhibition and coincide with Minnesota Center for Book Arts’ 35th anniversary.

Established in 2009, the biennial MCBA Prize is the first award to recognize excellence in new work from across the eclectic spectrum of book art. The 2020 prize coincides with MCBA’s 35th anniversary—and will draw submissions from across the globe. The submission window is open February 1-March 31, 2020.

This year’s juror is Betty Bright—curator, historian, and 30-year veteran of contemporary book art. She will select 20-30 semi-finalists, four finalists, and one winner to be featured in an exhibition in MCBA’s Main Gallery, on view June 18-August 23, 2020. The winning artist will receive a $2,000 cash prize, an essay written by Dr. Bright, and a travel stipend to attend the opening reception. The opening reception on June 25 will feature a VIP meet-and-greet with the prize winner and a conversation between the prize winner and curator. Four finalists will receive cash prizes of $500 apiece.

Once the exhibition opens, the public will have the opportunity to vote for the People’s Book Art Award, casting ballots for their favorite works either online or in person. Voting will continue until the exhibition closes, and the winner will receive a $500 cash prize.

“MCBA is thrilled to shine a spotlight on the most compelling work being produced in the book arts field today through the 2020 MCBA Prize,” says Executive Director Elysa Voshell. “This international award recognizes and supports contemporary artists working in the book form, and invites audiences to explore this thought-provoking medium.”

What will the winning work look like? That’s the exciting part. Broadly defined, book art revels in narrative, and due to its interdisciplinary nature, the approach of any one book artist will be thrillingly unpredictable: it may include letterpress printing, screen printing, relief printing, hand-lettering, papermaking, marbling, various binding techniques, boxmaking, calligraphy, or origami. The winning object may be a zine that serves as a map, an altered book that documents an experience, or a sculpture that departs from a bound book structure entirely.

Where will the winning work come from? That’s the other exciting part. Past winners and finalists have hailed from Japan, Germany, Spain, and the UK, as well as from across America. Peruse galleries of images of past prize-winning work and learn more about the submission process at


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