An Integral Partner: The Center for Book and Paper Arts

Graduate student Jenna Rodriguez prints JAB—one of the many projects connected to the CBPA. Photo by CBPA.

One of the unique things about the Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts MFA Program is that we’re connected to and share a space with the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago (CBPA). There are several centers dedicated to the book arts spread across the country, but ours is the only one that is connected to an MFA program. The CBPA at Columbia sponsors projects, hosts artist residencies and exhibitions, and is integrally involved in the maintenance and oversight of our studios. It is beyond enriching to have the CBPA as part of the graduate experience in Book and Paper.

So many of the posts I’ve made have been about projects or opportunities that I’ve been involved with that hinge on the CBPA’s involvement in my education. The show Material Assumptions that I curated, the project with Aram Saroyan that my Print Media class worked on, my residency assistantship position with poet Kyle Schlesinger—all of these were made possible by the CBPA. Every spring, the CBPA also hosts the annual Printers’ Ball, and this fall, we’ll be hosting the American Printing History Association Conference.

There are also many projects that the professors of our program collaborate on with the CBPA. Most recently, the CBPA received a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant “to produce mobile tablet apps representing existing artists’ books and to commission new works in digital media with material counterparts.” The folks who worked on this grant were Steve Woodall, Director of the Center for Book and Paper Arts, Clifton Meador, professor and current chair of Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Arts Department, and Jessica Cochran, Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the CBPA. What a significant achievement and how wonderful for it to be a product of the CBPA and our department!

Steve Woodall, Clifton Meador, David Morrish, and Marlene MacCallum do work at the CBPA sponsored by a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Photo by CBPA.

Having the Center for Book and Paper Arts as a component of the graduate experience in the Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts MFA program expands our resources tenfold. So many times it is the bridge into the larger book and paper community. There are many artists I’ve met and experiences I’ve had that wouldn’t have been possible without the CBPA.

There are also two staff members—Brad Freeman, Studio Coordinator and Founder/Editor of the Journal of Artists’ Books (JAB), and April Sheridan, Studio Technician/Special Projects Coordinator—who are essential to our studio experiences. April graduated from our program a few years (or so) ago, and Brad has an extensive history in the printing world. Both of them are incredibly knowledgeable and available to the students. Late in the evening at the studio and during my time as Graduate Assistant in Print, I have learned so much from these two people.

I feel so lucky to be part of a program that is attached to such a productive and important organization. And, I definitely know that my graduate experience would not be the same without the CBPA.