Last fall Alex Borgen (first-year MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts) was ruminating on how she could find source material for paper making from her surroundings, instead of buying it from distant suppliers. Her wish was to have her artwork more connected to the surrounding urban environment. So much of what Alex has been using in her artistic practice is plant-based, so it was only natural that her thoughts turned to gardens.
This past January Alex proposed the idea of creating an urban Papermaker’s Garden, located within the Columbia College community, to Book and Paper faculty and staff. With the support and encouragement of Professor Melissa Potter and Book and Paper studio technician April Sheridan, Alex’s proposal went from an idea to a concrete proposal, complete with research and funding requests, a slide show presentation, and spreadsheets for budgets. Said Alex, “I presented this so many times to such enthusiastic responses, it felt like the project idea was a perfect fit for the community from the start.”
This spring the project proposal was approved, and construction of the raised garden beds will start this summer at 750 South Wabash Avenue, adjacent the CCC bike rack station. Book and Paper graduate students will be manning the space during Manifest (May 4, 1:00–5:00 p.m.) to talk about the ideas behind the garden arrangement, the selection of plants that will be used in the first season, and the work that still needs to be done to get the garden up and growing.
Benefits of the project to Columbia students and the neighborhood are many. The project contributes to Columbia College’s green initiative by producing suitable paper fibers, and offering students collaborative and cross-disciplinary education, combining the arts with science and the environmental studies. Urban gardens help reduce air pollution and also give students access to natural, sustainably grown fibers for papermaking. The garden will also be an alternative art site – outdoor sculptures, paintings, and performances will invigorate the space, enhancing the positive visibility of the space.
The Papermaker’s Garden is supported by the Office of Campus Environment, the Office of Academic Affairs, the Interdisciplinary Arts Department, the Center for Book and Paper Arts, and Pulp Ink and Thread (PIT) the Book and Paper graduate student organization. (Illustrations by Carol Karnes)