Book Arts Collaborative is an immersive learning course and student-managed business that offers Ball State University and community courses in letterpress printing, book binding, and collaborative opportunities for artist’s book making. Located in the Madjax Building in downtown Muncie, the BAC shares space with Tribune Showprint, Inc. – the oldest continually-operating letterpress company in the United States.
Ball State University Libraries is proud to have been a partner with the Book Arts Collaborative since it was founded in 2016, with initial funding by a Virginia Ball Center Grant and Provost’s Initiative monies. Rai Peterson, Ball State University English Professor and founder of the BAC, explains the importance of our contribution to the program: “Book repair, box construction, and other artist’s book skills are germane to library work. Working with staff from University Libraries has helped to normalize book-binding and printing skills; students see a modern-day use for what they are learning. Librarians bring a “matter of course” perspective to book structure and its history. We are grateful for their assistance in teaching the apprentice-taught skills we help to preserve at Book Arts Collaborative.”
The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for some of the Book Arts Collaborative’s recent initiatives; however, an ambitious plan is underway to sort, sort, print, and bind a limited edition of copies of the printers’ cuts from the now-closed print shop at Hulman and Company, established in Terre Haute in 1850 in Terre Haute. The unique printing plates provide a glimpse into domestic life in the American Midwest through vintage advertisements for everything from canned grocery goods to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Copies of the book, printed and bound by Ball State students at the BAC, will be distributed to archives, museums, and historical societies as reference guides to these inimitably rare images – as well as a work of art within itself.