Whitman College Book Arts Press
Mission: Preserve and regenerate the book art form.
The Whitman College Book Arts Press provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration which lends itself well to the liberal arts college atmosphere historically associated with Whitman College. Bookmaking is a fine art form that connects old and new technologies, particularly interesting to students.
The Whitman College Book Arts Press will preserve and regenerate the book art form through collaborative works, combining literature, visual art, typography, and printmaking in unique limited editions of fine art quality books, in a context that encourages and stimulates both student learning and public appreciation of the book arts and the preservation of book crafts, which are integrated into a multi-media and multi-disciplinary instructional context.
Book Arts at Whitman College
The Penrose Memorial Library at Whitman College has long held in its collection examples of fine art and archival books. The collection includes an original leaf from a Bible printed by Gutenberg circa 1455 as well as a complete copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle printed in 1493. Its archives include some 3,500 linear feet of historic documents and original letters.
One part of this collection is a collection of handsomely bound limited edition works from Frank McCaffrey's Dogwood Press. Born in 1898, McCaffrey had apprenticed in printing at the age of 10 in Spokane. He bought his first press in 1929, the Acme Press in Seattle. He operated his Dogwood Press on Battery Street in Seattle since 1952 gaining a reputation as a fine printer/craftsman. The 1975 donation of his press and equipment has provided the equipment base for Whitman College's Book Arts Press. It also led to a friendship between Larry Dodd, archivist at Penrose Library, which in turn permitted Mr. Dodd to acquire for the archives a representative collection of distinctive books printed with Mr. McCaffrey's fine touch at the Dogwood Press. From 1975 until 1987 the press equipment was used by the publications department which was then operated by S. Eugene Thompson at Whitman College. When Mr. Thompson departed the school, the equipment was no longer being used.
Mr. Dodd along with library director Henry Yaple approached Keiko Hara in the Art Department in 1987 wondering if students might benefit from access to a printing press in their design projects. The interdisciplinary effort linking literature and the visual arts through what was to become the Whitman Book Arts Press germinated at this time. In the early stages it amounted to art students and instructors learning about typography and incorporating it into design compositions and printmaking artwork. In order to get the press running, local printer Bob Graves volunteered his expertise.
The next step in Book Arts development came in the school year 1990-91 when the Art Department appointed Johnston Visiting Professor Byron Clercx with the specific intent that he develop book arts as part of his teaching duties. During this period the Library began collecting examples of contemporary fine art books created by professionals and by students.
In 1992-3 a faculty committee drawn from many disciplines was formed and began to develop a long-term strategy for the Book Arts Press. Representatives from the Library, the Art Department, as well as the arts and sciences and local printers who had served as technical resources participated in developing a strategy for funding and improving the printing facilities.
In the 1993-4 school year a student intern was assigned exclusively to bookmaking. Carrie Larson put together binding, typography, and card making projects for students in the community working with Keiko Hara. The following year Robert Oze served as a student intern exclusively assigned to the Book Arts Press as well. He continued in that capacity in the 1995-6 school year.
In the 1992-3 school year a visiting instructor, Susan Allen, Director of Library and Media Services at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, did a workshop with interested students and community members in which they produced a limited edition book. In the 1993-4 school year students had the opportunity to observe the collaborative efforts of Poet Sherman Alexie, artist James Lavador, and Typographer/Bookmaker Ben Trissel in the production of the limited edition book Seven Morning Songs I Have Yet to Learn to Play on My Cedar Flute. Some of these books are now in major collections including the Special Book Collection at the University of Washington. In the summer of 1995 a limited edition translation of a Tibetal Palmleaf Manuscript was produced by Barbara Tetenbaum, a visiting book artist from Oregon School of Arts and Crafts, with translation and concept direction from Whitman College Religion Professor Jonathan Walters.
In the fall of 1995 the college employed Arnold Visiting Professor Katherine Kuehn, a book artist who had recently left Pace Editions in New York to begin her independent book art press in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her teaching duties were exclusively directed at teaching and promoting the book arts.
In the 1996-7 academic year the first Book Arts class was taught by Keiko Hara, Professor of Art at Whitman College. Inviting guest book artists Chris Stern and Jules Fay from Sedro-Wooley. Keiko Hara and her Book Arts class collaborated to produce a limited edition book with Northwest poet Tess Gallagher, who was the Arnold Visiting Professor that year.
In July 1997 the Art Department and Penrose Library, with the support of the Blue Mountain Arts Alliance, presented the first summer symposium and workshop "A Contemporary Book Arts Perspective, The Private Life of Books." Instructors included Sandra Kroupa, the University of Washington Book Arts Librarian, Katherine Kuehn, from Salient Seedling Press, Julia Chan, Flying Fish Press, Mills College, CA, Barbara Tetenbaum, Triangular Press from Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, and David Schlater, Educational Technologies Multi-media Designer from Idaho.
During 1997-1999, Anna Hepler, a visiting Book Artist who studied with Claire Van Vliet, came to Whitman to teach Book Arts classes. In 1998 the second annual summer symposium, "Traditions in the Book Arts: Contemporary Explorations," was held, featuring presentations by Jim Dine, with Julia D'Amerio and Ruth Lingen from Pace Graphic Center in New York. Kathy Coddington and other intern students from the Art Department assisted in the collaboration, making proofs.
Other featured workshops were directed by Ruth Lingen, Director of the Spring Street Workshop at Pace in New York, John Carrera from Quercus Press, Anna Hepler of Beo Press, Visiting Book Artist at Whitman College, Kathy Kuehn, and Artist in Residence Laurie Chambers, from Seattle.
In 1999, the third annual summer symposium Book Arts workshop "The Future is the Book," featured Gary Frost, a book conservator from Booklab, Inc, Barbara Henry, Director and Curator at Bowne and Co., at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City, Barbara Tetenbaum and Kathy Kuehn led this intensive production of a limited edition artists' book.
During the fall 1999 a limited edition book Kali was completed and co-published with the Enitharmon Press in London.
Kathy Kuehn was instrumental in leading the annual summer symposiums and workshops, and Jim Dine's collaborative book.
From fall 1999 to present, David Wharton has been on the faculty of the Art Department as a Book Arts instructor. Using his background as the printmaking director at the Sun Valley Art Center, he has made many improvements to the Book Arts facilities and resources.
In Spring 2000 the Book Arts studio was moved to the expanded Olin Hall studio art wing from its previous location in North Hall. It was placed next to the printmaking studio and shares a much improved ventilation system. A new photo-polymer plate maker also allows the production of photographic and digital prints.