New experimental course teaches students about the history, meaning and art behind books

ART 280a3, Books Arts: History, Meaning and Form, is an experimental, first-of-its-kind book arts and history course this summer taught in the Department of Art and Art History. The class takes place in the recently established Center for Artists’ Books and Inclusive Narratives (CABIN) space inside the CSU Chemistry Building.

Co-taught by Librarian and Director of the Wold Resource Center, Anna Bernhard, and Associate Printmaking Professor, Johnny Plastini, the course explores the various professional and artistic practices associated with book arts creation. Open to art majors and non-art majors alike, students learn about paper and ink making, binding structures, letterpress printing, and engage in inclusive discussion around the history of book arts and its present day importance.

With career aspirations to enter the publishing industry, senior English major Andrea Day reflects on the importance of understanding the full book creation process. “Seeing how something is physically made and the work that goes into that puts a much deeper respect into book making.”

Bernhard and Plastini created the course to encourage an interdisciplinary curriculum that promotes multi-sensorial communication and learning within the art and art history department and deepens connections with the larger Colorado book arts community.

“[The class] has exceeded my expectations,” says Elliot Benson, junior dance major. “Just realizing the intricacies of the book as both an art form and a form of power and control, a form of class, and how that has changed throughout history.”

The Department of Art and Art History is in the CSU College of Liberal Arts. Video and photos by Brooke Buchan, featuring materials and employees from the CSU Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections.