USM Launches Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts

In an age where most people buy mass-produced books at chain stores and an increasing number of people shop for their books online to read on Amazon’s Kindle electronic reading device, one would think the days of holding and opening a hand-bound book are over. Except, of course, for a growing contingent of book artists who create works of art as limited edition, hand-printed books or unique handmade volumes. An art form that reaches back to medieval bookbinding and letterpress tradition and forward to installation art and novel constructions, book arts cover a wide spectrum.University of Southern Maine alumna Kate Cheney Chappell (’83) and co-founder of Tom’s of Maine, studied book arts under well-known Maine book artist and USM faculty member Rebecca Goodale. A professional artist, Chappell’s love of creating handmade books was something she wanted to share with a gift that established The Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM, naming Goodale as program coordinator. The Center for Book Arts will celebrate the innovative and engaging nature of book arts through lectures and workshops by national and regional book artists, and through exhibits of artists’ books.

New studio space available for book arts workshops in the recently opened Wishcamper Center is named in memory of Chappell’s mother, Mary Pope Cheney, an artist and advocate for the visually impaired, and her aunt Elizabeth Pope, chair of the English Department at Mills College and author of historical fiction for young adults. The Wishcamper Center houses USM’s Muskie School of Public Service and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

The inaugural event for The Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM will take place at 2 p.m. in the Glickman Family Library, Saturday, October 4. The event will feature guest speaker and well-known publisher of handmade books Clair Van Vliet whose talk is titled, “Why Make Books by Hand? Fifty Years of Publishing at the Janus Press.” Van Vliet is a recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship Award, and her Newark, Vermont Janus Press studio has been bringing to life limited editions of books, prints and broadsides of artists and poets for 50 years. Seating is very limited for this free event. Please call 780-4709 for reservations.

Future fall events hosted by The Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM are:

Tuesday, October 21, 7 p.m.: Two lectures will be presented in the University Events Room of the Glickman Family Library — “A Place for Everything – The Books” by Peter Madden, and “Carrying Forward: Working Within a Craft Tradition” by Nancy Leavitt. Free and open to the public. For more information, call Rebecca Goodale at 228-8014.

Saturday, November 1, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: The Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM Workshop, “Medieval/Modern Wood-Covered Books” with Peter Madden, will take place in the Elizabeth Pope and Mary Pope Cheney Studio, USM Wishcamper Center, Portland. $125 workshop fee, enrollment limited to 15 with registration required. To register, call 780-5900.


Caption:”The Gospel of Mary” Karen King translator, popup designed by Claire Van Vliet with paper made by Katie MacGregor in Whiting, Maine. Janus Press, 2006. Photograph by John Somers.

The University of Southern Maine (USM) offers its 10,000 plus students more than 115 areas of undergraduate and graduate study. USM’s location in southern Maine, a region cited as one of the most liveable in the country, offers a range of educational, cultural and recreational opportunities.

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