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Book art MFA focuses in with restructuring of program

The Mills book art program has undergone major changes this past year: not only has it switched divisions and departments within the school, but the department has restructured its MFA program from book art and creative writing to just book art.

The move from the Languages and Literature to the Art and Technology division prompted the change in the graduate degree. Yet there were also other factors that influenced the change, such as the complicated logistics of the degree given that is was the only five-semester long MFA program at Mills. There was also confusion over the payment process, as the studio art MFA and creative writing MFA have different pricing systems and book art was stuck in between the two.

Now, book art is housed in the Art and Visual Culture Department along with studio art and art history. Professors of book art Kathleen Walkup and Julie Chen both agree that this placement makes more sense for the program.

When the MFA students began the new program this past fall semester, they experienced advantages as well: without the divided time between book art and creative writing, students are better connected to the book art department, and get to thoroughly know both professors and are therefore better supported. However, both professors felt some remorse about having to end the unique program they had built up in the past years.

“I was sad to have to end the MFA in book art & creative writing. It was the only degree of its kind in the country, and I loved having students who were committed to both art and writing practices,” Professor Kathleen Walkup said in an email. “I would have been happy to keep both degrees, but it wasn’t practical.”

But overall, it seems that the primary emotions surrounding the changes are excitement and hope for the future of book art. As one of only four schools in the country that offer a book art MFA, Mills has a lot to offer to the book art world.

The book art MFA first year show, a collaborative project titled “You’re Invited,” debuted on Saturday, May 4. Professor of Book Art Julie Chen described it as a fun yet thought-provoking exhibition. It will be on view until May 16 in the Slide Space 123 near the art museum.

“On the surface in the classes, we’ve just been doing what we’ve always been doing, which we believe in very strongly. But underneath, we’ve been really developing things with a new MFA and the new department, and it’s been really great,” Chen said.