It's been so beastly cold lately (-11 this morning) that I think I've only left the house in the last week for food, work-related activities and the celebration of Jody Williams' award. I did pick up some new Chiyogami at Wet Paint and hope to make some boxes this week to sell at MCBA's shop.Yesterday, MCBA sent out an email reminder that the February round table was last night and that it would be focused on presentations from the five MCBA/Jerome Foundation fellows for this year. Every other year, the Jerome Foundation partners with MCBA to provide grants for emerging Minnesota book artists. (In the off years, Jerome and MCBA partner to provide funding for book arts mentorships, an effort to encourage artists working in other media to learn more about book arts.)
About 14 people braved the cold last night to hear these artists talk about their past work and the process they are following to create their new work, funded by the fellowship. There are four projects and five fellows. Regula Russelle and CB Sherlock (who couldn't make the round table) are partnering on a public art project called "Sidewalk Folios." Four Twin City neighborhoods will be chosen and each will have five simple boxes (much like the "take-one" boxes of pamphlets on coffee house bulletin boards) of letter-press printed poetry available. The individual can find one poem on its own, or all five and create a "book" from these free and unexpected gems. These letterpress poems move from their usual home in the studio or gallery to the street, and hopefully become less "precious" because they become available to anybody.
I've known Regula for years (we took our first box class together in the old MCBA building) and I always find her inspiring. She and CB have produced some lovely books together and even though they work hard to make them price-accessible, they are not inexpensive. Moving from fine letterpress to public art is a huge leap for the two of them, but one that I'm very excited to see.
I didn't know the other three artists, and that made their presentations even more interesting to me. It was fascinating to hear their process (often very intuitive and totally non-linear). And the group assembled had great suggestions for next steps, or constructive feedback on particular obstacles that the artist was struggling with.
These grants and the roundtable are another reminder to me of how strong our cities' artist communities are. Of course, we can complain that they should be stronger but these five artists have all been encouraged to take a big step forward in their work thanks to MCBA and the Jerome Foundation.