The Book Arts Program

The Red Butte Press at the University of Utah was established in 1984 after the donation of a Columbian handpress by Lewis and Dorothy Allen. A decade later, in 1995, the university began the Book Arts Program in order to educate students and promote the art of hand-crafted book-making. Today, students and the general public can participate in workshops and classes to learn about how books are made, and enrolled students from all majors can even earn a Book Arts Certificate or minor in Book Arts after completing a number of courses the program offers. Students create several books for different projects, and can learn about all areas of book-making or focus on certain elements of the process, such as bookbinding, letterpress printing and artists’ books.

“We want to provide our students with stimulating, high-quality instruction, which empowers them to produce innovative, engaging work. Book Arts is a great way to get students involved with critical and creative thinking,” says bookbinding instructor and studio coordinator Emily Tipps. “My hope is that in my class, they develop hand skills and gain confidence in the realm of making books, and perhaps in other areas, as a result. … I don’t expect everyone to make perfect books, or become binders for life, but I do hope to nurture the interest in the physical book—its functionality as well as its artistic potential—that prompted them to sign up for the class in the first place.”

The Book Arts Program attracts students from all over campus and from all different majors who want to take an interesting class or need a fine art credit. But some students see the program as a major influence to their future goals and careers. Bookbinding student Tanya Richards volunteers in the book preservation lab and wants to go into rare book preservation. She sees the Book Arts Program as a “natural fit,” while her classmate Katie Wheelwright is studying art teaching, and wants to implement the skills she learns from the program into her future classes.

“I’m really an advocate of inter-twining education and art,” she says.

Those who don’t necessarily see themselves going into the arts as a career still take away something permanent from the program. Bookbinding student Nate Perkins, a Latin American Studies major, says that he’s not sure how he will use the books he creates in the class, but he has gained “a cool skill for gift giving.”

As the Book Arts Program grows and gains popularity, Tipps hopes to see more elements added, such as paper making or a writing component and more interdisciplinary opportunities through collaboration with other departments.

“I don’t see this trend ending, as interest in the book arts remains strong,” she says. “The students we’ve seen come back for class after class mature so much as artists, and I would like to make sure we are fully able to support them and help them fulfill their potential.”

The University of Utah Book Arts Program offers classes and workshops every semester. You can learn more about their offerings by visiting the Marriott Library website.

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