Kelly: What is the Center for the Book Arts...and what is your role there?
Sarah Nicholls: The Center for Book Arts is a hybrid gallery/studio/hub of artistic and social activity. We were the first non-profit in the nation specifically devoted to book arts. We’re dedicated to encouraging contemporary interpretations of the book as an art object, as well as reinvigorating traditional artistic practices of bookmaking. What that means is we mount exhibitions, teach classes, offer lectures and talks, host poetry readings, and publish chapbook and exhibition catalogs, as well as offer scholarship and residency opportunities for artists and writers to expand their knowledge of the book as an art object.
I’m the Programs Manager, and I organize a workshop schedule of over 150 courses yearly in bookbinding, printmaking, letterpress and artists books. I develop our schedule of artist talks, poetry readings, professional development programs for artists, and panel discussions, as well as oversee our artist residency programs, scholarship programs, and annual poetry publications. I’ve collaborated with other organizations, such as the Drawing Center, CUNY, NYPL, Printed Matter and the Museum of Arts and Design, to present programs and events around New York City. I run the studio programs, maintain equipment, manage our studio volunteers and interns, and provide and/or arrange for technical support for our artists in residence.
Kelly: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things going on at The Center this fall – perhaps things you’re particularly excited about?
Sarah: Today we’re finishing up installing the three fall exhibitions, which open on Wednesday September 22nd: Ear to the Page, organized by James Hoff and Alan Licht, which is a show highlighting the interaction between audio recordings and books. There’s also a Featured Artist Project by Catya Plate called Clothespin Tarot, as well as an installation of recent works by renowned book artist Barbara Tetenbaum, who will be speaking later in November, as well as teaching a GREAT artist books class that begins with the relationship between music and the visual arts. She’s going to be here November 19-21.
I’m also really looking forward to Find a Collaborator! – a visual artists and writers mixer on October 6th; artists and writers are invited to come in and hear about the collaboration between Wennie Huang, former CBA resident, and Ed Go, poet and book arts student, bring in some examples of their own work, and then participate in a few simple exercises designed to help them find a potential collaborator for their own projects. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Kelly: What are you working on in your own art these days?
Sarah: I just finished carving blocks for two prints published by Cannonball Press. Who do great things! And I was really excited to be able to do that. I’m aiming to publish an Informational Pamphlet on Weasels on their Habits this fall, as part of an occasional pamphlet series. And I have an idea for a lino cut animation, called Hot Doug’s Sausage Superstore. That’s as far as that idea has gone so far.
Kelly: What can you tell us about those index cards? They’re quite compelling.
Sarah: The index cards, oh my. Well, most of my artwork uses found text. I collect my text on index cards, and photograph the really nice ones, mainly out of an obsessive need to document. The texts are works in progress and the photographs are evidence of that process. The ones that stick end up being set in lead type, and I think a lot about the difference in how a text sounds between when it’s scrawled on an index card and when it’s set in type and printed. Right now I’m collecting a lot of text on weasels, and on eating.
Kelly: What are you looking forward to seeing or doing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?
Sarah: I’m excited to see new work by old friends. I’m excited to get out of the city. I’m excited to see people I haven’t seen in a while. It’s always a great event.