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New work by Colorado book artists at Abecedarian

Summer is a time for me to step back, re-assess Abecedarian’s successes and failures and develop new programming and relationships. One of the pleasures of this process is the addition of several artists to gallery inventory. This post introduces four artists who have Colorado ties.

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Mackenzie Browning, having recently earned his MFA from the University of Saskatchewan, moved to Denver earlier this year. Pictured above is Posy Patch, one of four works currently available at the gallery. Click here to read more about Mackenzie’s available works. He’s been in a printing frenzy at Denver’s Art Gym, where he is featured in a two person exhibit Creases and Covers  August 6 – 20, 2016. Here are some photos of the exhibition:

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Nicole Cotten lived in the Denver area prior to getting a BFA in painting with a minor in creative writing from University of Colorado, Boulder. She is currently pursuing an MFA in book arts from the University of Iowa and is in the very early stages of what will likely be a successful focus on book arts. Click here to learn more about her book Man Knitting: How to Make Flowers (pictured below).

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Scott McKinney is also just starting on his journey as a studio artist, having recently received his BFA in studio arts from Metropolitan State University in Denver. His work, Transit, has a deliciously tactile cover with a hand embroidered title. Click here to learn more about Transit (pictured below).

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I’ve had  Kim Morski’s work since it was featured in The Printed Page II exhibit earlier this year. She moved to Denver several months ago and has already made quite a splash with her collaborative project Fresh Bread in March,and as guest artist in residence at the Art Gym. She has also jumped on board (as a new board member) at The Englewood Depot letterpress museum. Her book This Land is Your Land/This Land is My Land  received a purchase award and is now out of print. Click here to learn more about Kim’s work in inventory. Part 2: Clouds is pictured below.

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Welcome to the gallery!

Salida hosts Artists Books on the Road

Artists Books on the Road at The Book Haven in Salida

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The town of Salida, like many others, has jumped on the bandwagon of offering up art and cultural fare to boost the predominant town industry – tourism. Founded in 1880 by Denver and Rio Grande railroads, the town’s economic history includes the usual mix of industries: mining, quarrying, smelting, agriculture and retail trade—along with the usual smattering of saloons, gambling and brothels. More recenlty, Salida was named one of the top 3 small art towns in Colorado, and one of the top 30 in the nation in John Villani’s The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.

In 2012 Salida was named one of only two Certified Creative Districts by CCI, a division of the State’s Office of Economic Development. This was the same year that The Arts District on Santa Fe, where Abecedarian Gallery is located, was certified. There are now 12 Certified Creative Districts statewide.

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My visit to Salida with Artists Books on the Road was hosted by The Book Haven during Salida’s 23rd Annual Summer Art Walk, a three-day event in the historic downtown area. According the event organizers, over 100 venues were overflowing with new masterpieces and demonstrations.

Speaking of the event organizers, it was a wonderful surprise to bump into Jimmy Sellers, co-organizer of this years’ Art Walk. Jimmy directs Sellers Project Space, located for many years in Denver, relocating last year to Salida. I’ve known Jimmy for years, he is a passionate and avid advocate of the arts; Salida is lucky to have him.

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Setting up in an independent book store is always a treat; particularly so when it is as welcoming as The Book Haven is. Now in its 12th year, the well stocked but cozy store is owned and run by Lisa Marvel. Regular customers and those dropping by for Artists Books on the Road made the afternoon lively, the visitors a rich mix of all ages, genders and nationalities.

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A predictable favorite for my visit was Lise Melhorn-Boe’s More Garbage. Lise creates artist’s books dealing with political, environmental, gender- and health-related issues. Her bookworks are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always thought-provoking. More Garbage, with is oversize, tactiley rich and colorful pages, beckons viewers in for a closer look. On opening and turning the pages, readers learn that we in North America throw out a huge amount of stuff, and much of what we dispose of is toxic. The texts, giving statistical details, are printed on left-over acid-free paper and hand-sewn to pages created from the artist’s garbage.

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After a day spent with books of all sorts, I was treated to an art’s district hosted barbeque held against a magnificent double rainbow, the town’s tame deer foraging nearby.

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BreckCreate Hosts Hands on Artists’ Books

BreckCreate hosts Hands on Artists’ Books during June Creativity Crawl.

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The ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, at a lofty height in Summit County, about 90 miles west of Denver, is home to a well planned and lively downtown art district. Recognizing that developing a strong cultural profile as a means of expanding the town’s tourism industry beyond the winter months makes good business sense, the city has invested roughly twenty-five million dollars into the arts over the past few years.

According to Jenn Cramm, BreckCreate’s Director of Public Programs and Engagement, the vision began in 2001, with the town’s purchase of the historic buildings for what is now the Breckenridge Arts District Campus.

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In 2014, the vision was more formalized with the designation of the non-profit Breckenridge Creative Arts (BreckCreate). In the past two years, the campus has been on a fast track of improvements and program development.

June 13, the night I was in town, was the grand opening of the Old Masonic Hall as a newly renovated, dedicated space for the arts. Pictured below is a view from the outside window of Jennifer Ghormley’s lovely hanging paper installation Transitions, with sky and downtown Breckenridge reflections.

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The campus, with studios and residences in renovated historic structures, hosts a variety of cultural programming throughout the year, including a national roster of visiting artists in two on-site residences. Special programming throughout the year includes second Saturday art walks, year-round workshops with visiting and local artists, visual art exhibitions, dance, music and theater performances and the quarterly Creativity Crawl.

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My visit was hosted in the front section of the Fuque Livery Stable, an open room with floor to ceiling windows on three sides and track lighting. Over the course of the three hour Creativity Crawl, I showed dozens of books, spread out on three tables, to the 100 or so visitors who stopped by. I am always surprised at how few visitors at events such as this are aware of the field of artists’ books. Many stayed to learn more, simply by looking at the books and asking questions about them. Several returned for a second visit, bringing along others they knew would appreciate the form.

 

I love when this happens – watching the glimmer of interest (occasionally with a hint of reticence to engage) shift into full fledged involvement, enthusiasm and discussion. A lot of time, effort and expense goes into making these mobile artists’ books shows happen, for both myself and the hosting venue. Getting to share the excitement that inevitably grows as visitors interact with books serves to affirm my commitment to Abecedarian Gallery and Artists Books on the Road.

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Experiences in Visual Arts

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Visiting artist Alicia Bailey at University of Denver

Last week I was invited to spend an afternoon with students enrolled in Experiences in the Visual Arts, at University of Denver. The class was held in one of the studios in the Nagel Art Studios building. This building, adjacent to the older Schwayder Art Building, was finished in 2010. I mention this building as ithe 12,500 square foot building was built as part of a project that also included the DU Soccer Stadium and the Pat Bowlen Training Center for DU’s athletic team. The complex was designed by Tryba Architects and provides an unusual example of resource sharing (in this case, a tract of valuable real estate square footage used for both athletics and studio arts.) As visiting artist, I had a parking pass for the afternoon and the short trek from my car to Nagel included a glimpse into the athletic training center, a stunning visual of muscular bodies interacting with their own versions of studio equipment.

an undergraduate studio class for non-art majors

The course aims to explore the language of the visual arts, using it to communicate ideas about culture, history and the personal. Through hands-on exercises and experimentation in different media students work to interpret the world around them via image or object creation. University faculty rotates teaching this course; each offering typically centered around the area of expertise of the faculty teaching it. The hope is that students deepen their understanding of the creative process, and that this understanding will not only inform other areas of studies but will also enrich their lives long into the future.

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taught this quarter by Catherine Chauvin

Catherine is a master printmaker (Tamarind trained); she teaches and runs the printmaking department at University of Denver. Prior to her position at DU (which she has held since 2003), Catherine was Master Printer and Director of the School of Visual Arts’ P.R.I.N.T. (Print Research Institute) at the University of North Texas.

Unfamiliar ground

The way Catherine opted to teach this quarter’s EVA class is admirable. Rather than rely solely on her experience and love of printmaking, both of which are vast, she opted to introduce an element new to both herself and her students; i.e. using the book form as this quarter’s vehicle for offering up an array of visual arts experience.

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In a class of primarily non-art major students (only one in the group of 15), this decision increased opportunities for bringing skills and experience from each individual student’s area of study or personal history to the classroom. Using the familiar book form as a launching pad to crafting more personal physical objects, has a palpably energizing effect on the studio atmosphere.

Catherine’s decision to focus on the book form, a form immediately recognizable and approachable, with the benefit of tactile, interactive and private qualities thrown in, yet one that she has little to no experience in creating, puts her on an even playing field with her students. She is learning and skill building along side them, keeping her energy fresh, the studio exuberant.

Visiting artists

Visiting artists, of which I was the first this quarter, along with site visits to studios and small businesses, provide glimpses into real world scenarios of artists as wage-earners and small business owners. They will also be visiting a small letterpress studio

Banshee Press Banshee Press, a design, letterpress, silkscreen and etching studio specializing in hand-printed art and ephemera owned by University of Denver alum Britt Madden and Dry Creek Arts Press, Leon Loughridge’s studio where limited edition woodblocks and artists’ books are produced.

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Part of the curriculum involves field trips as both prep and follow-up to the studio projects. For the altered project they were first able to visit an exhibit of my works currently on view at the university’s Anderson Academic Commons (library).

Someone Like YouCases were unlocked and books removed by Special Collections Librarian Kate Crowe. Had the exhibit not been on display, a similar field trip to the Gottesfeld Room for a closer look at artists’ books could have just as easily been arranged.

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The class will also attend a presentation I am giving at Anderson Academic Commons mid-quarter. These visits to the library to view artwork solidify the concept (and in this case, reality) that libraries hold far more than access to required class reference materials.

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Internet

A 21st century student’s level of exposure to digital learning tools is already high, but in this class the emphasis shifts towards Internet as a place for learning in addition to a place of research/entertainment or social networking. Their first assignment used a Sea Lemon video for binding their sketchbooks, followed up by an assignment to watch the Art 21 William Kentridge video and to write reflectively about the artist and his projects.

Looking forward

The notion of exhibiting this classes finished projects at the library is on the table, although no solid arrangements are in place. As to me, I look forward to future opportunities to work with students both in and out of the art department at University of Denver. The already sizable and steadily growing collection of artists’ books make DU a campus rich in opportunity for using book works as teaching tools as well as a means to increase the excitement about learning interactively. Over and out . . .

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