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Future of Book Art program still uncertain

Roughly 11 weeks after students and faculty received the Oct. 19 memorandum announcing the potential closure of the Book Art program, there are still no definitive answers.

According to a Mills College press release from Dec. 7, the College is looking for ways to keep the program.

 “As a result of an outpouring of national and international support for Book Art, the school is evaluating fundraising opportunities that would establish a perpetual endowment for the program,” the press release said.

Kathleen Walkup, director of the Book Art program, echoes the press release and says that Mason Jay Blacher, who does development counseling for nonprofit organizations, has been retained by the College to assess how viable raising an endowment is.

“I was retained to recommend the best approach to attract outside support for the Book Art program from interested alumnae and friends of Mills, several of whom I’ve interviewed at this point (though I have more interviews to go),” Blacher said, who is having periodic meetings with the provost and president before his final assessment is due mid April.

Walkup says that according to Provost Sharon Washington, a $1 million endowment for the program specifically with a yearly payout of five percent ($50,000) would ensure the future of the program.

The Campanil reached out to Washington for comment and did not receive a reply.

According to Walkup, Blacher has been incredibly careful and observant of the Book Art program and wider Book Art community and stays in close contact with Walkup about developments and ideas. He has also come to visit the studios on numerous occasions to understand the program and to talk with students. One highlight, he says, was an hour spent getting to know several dedicated book art undergrads in late January.

However, despite the lack of a completely concrete future, the Book Art program is alive and very busy. There are 12 book art minors, up from seven last spring and a new round of MFA applicants are being reviewed.

“We are extremely gratified that we have so many applicants to the program and that the caliber is so high,” Walkup said.  “We have every intention of having a graduating class of 2018.”

The program has also announced a summer institute and accepted a recent MFA graduate for the teaching fellowship.

The institute will run from June 26 to July 1 with artists Julie Chen, Tom Killion and Inge Bruggeman. Unfortunately it can not be offered for credit, however it will be an opportunity to work closely with internationally recognized artists. A former Mills graduate has been hired as a part time administrative assistant to work on the institute.

Recent master’s in creative writing and book art graduate Keri Schroeder has come back to Mills after being accepted to the Book Art fellowship program and will be working in a mentored position with Walkup which gives recent grads teaching experience.

Walkup says that close to $100,000 have been raised in pledges, with no help from the college, including a significant pledge from the Austin/Kahle Foundation which supports free online book archives, arts and education and recently, permanent affordable housing to non-profit employees.