Art Books and Coffee on the West Bank

A traveling exhibition highlights an overlooked gem—and an overlooked medium—near the University

By: Callum Leemkuil-Schuerman


What do we think of when we hear the word “book?” Few of us spend any time at all thinking about the actual mass-produced physical object; there is even a widely-repeated aphorism about how we shouldn’t pay attention to a certain aspect of the book: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”


The Minnesota Center for Book Arts has a slightly different take on things, one that is on display at Formation, the new traveling exhibit currently set up at the West Bank’s own Open Book, a combination cafe, bookstore, community art center, library, and museum. Formationis an exhibition of art books made by members of the Guild of Book Workers, an organization of people dedicated to high-quality bookbinding and manufacturing. Many people are unfamiliar with bookmaking as an art, and Formationoffers an excellent opportunity to explore both a new medium and a beautiful literary center only a five-minute bike ride from campus.


The work on display takes many different forms. There is no shortage of what might be called “traditional” bound books, though they look much less plain than most things you’ll find at a Barnes and Noble. For example, there is a new binding, done by Patricia Owen, of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” whose very shape is warped, grey, and ominous, much like the grim world of the story itself. However, there are also many books on display that, removed from the context of the exhibit, would be unrecognizable as books; for example, books written with tallow and fat on scrolls of parchment, or books written in gold leaf on scorched palm leaves.   

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Formationoffers an incredible opportunity to change your perspective on books as art objects.  Plus, once you’re finished with the exhibit, you can get a coffee at the lovely Open Book Cafe and mull over all the ways your mind has been expanded. 


The Open Book is located at 1011 South Washington Avenue.

Wake Mag