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College announces new Book Art and Creative Writing MFA program to begin at Mills next fall

Mills College will be the first college in the nation to offer a graduate degree in book art and creative writing.

Mills’ undergraduate book art program is already well known throughout the country for its variety and number of book art classes.

Coordinators recently announced there will be a new master of fine arts degree in book art and creative writing. This is the first degree of its kind in the country.

The idea for the degree came up a few years ago, at an English department faculty retreat. Professors from the respective creative writing and book art programs wanted some way to merge the two disciplines, according to Kathleen Walkup, book art program head and professor.

“It just seemed like such a natural idea,” she said.

Vice Provost Andrew Workman said the program also seemed like a good idea because so many of the graduate creative writing students were signing up for book

art classes.

Since then, the degree has been developing and was announced this past August.

“Certainly it’s been an evolving process, no question about that,” Walkup said.

The program will begin in Fall 2009 and will include six students for its first semester. Curriculum will be split down the middle – half in book art and half in creative writing, with 12.5 required units. Because of the intense work involved in the degree, each year has a course sequence that students will follow in order to complete the work in two years. Students will complete two

theses as well as take part in

an exhibition.

The degree comes at a time when the field of book art is coming into its own.

“People are really thinking about books in different ways,” Workman said. He called book art an “emerging national field.”

Once housed in the Eucalyptus Press room above the M Center, the entire book art program relocated to multiple rooms and studios in CPM last year. This included moving several presses and binding equipment into the new rooms. It was done to give students a dramatic increase in space.

“We couldn’t have done it without the space,” said Walkup. The move allows for separate undergraduate and graduate studios, something that Walkup sees as essential.

“We’re very dedicated to the undergraduate program,” she said, explaining that the new degree was planned carefully in order to make sure it wouldn’t get in the way of the undergraduate program. “We’re trying very hard getting the graduate lab set up so the undergraduate students are not losing anything.”

Some current undergraduate students in the book art minor have already expressed interest in the degree. Senior Terri Northcutt plans to apply for the program.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Northcutt said. She spoke of how much “personal attention” students will receive with only six in the program.

Walkup has already begun meeting with potential students from other schools.

She said that the students, faculty and staff of Mills have been a huge help in getting this program started. “I am really thrilled that the College is so excited and supportive about the program,” Walkup said. “[They] really want this to succeed.”