News Feature

Book Makers

Art classes teach students how to go old school

In an age when so many people seem glued to their phones, you will find Leigh Craven’s Bridgewater State University students not just reading books but creating them.

Craven, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History, once taught so-called book arts as special, one-off courses. Last year, it became a four-level program – and a pioneering one.

Bridgewater is the only public higher education institution in the state offering such a program. BSU joins three Bay State private schools in doing so: Wellesley and Smith colleges and Montserrat College of Art.

“I think it’s really important that we, as a public state institution, offer something that could be inaccessible to many of these students if they weren’t here,” Craven said. “I’m very much of the belief art should be accessible to all.”

Book arts is a relatively new artistic genre, although students learn about bookbinding techniques dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Projects go beyond simply making a book and pull from painting, sculpture, drawing, weaving and other disciplines.

“We use the knowledge and skills and craftsmanship to make one-of-a-kind works of art,” Craven said.

On a recent day in the studio, Kelly Bouley, ’21, worked on a series of four books about brain injuries that fit together like a puzzle into the shape of the brain.

“I underestimated the fact we’re actually making books,” said Kelly, an elementary and art education major from Attleboro. “It’s taught me some things I could use forever that I never would have imagined otherwise.”

Tuveya Davis, ’21, an art major with a concentration in graphic design from Taunton, has a new appreciation for books and reading thanks to this class.

“I like taking something I take for granted, which is a bound book, and knowing how to make it,” said Emily Coutu, ’19. “It makes books more valuable to me.”

Coutu, a Yarmouth resident who studied art with a concentration in painting, is proud BSU has a program many may not expect to find at a public university.

It’s also one likely to continue drawing students.

“I don’t think the book is going to go away,” Craven said. “For me, the book offers something digital does not. You can feel the weight of the book in your hands. You can feel the texture of it.”

Do you have a BSU story you'd like to share? Email stories@bridgew.edu.