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The National Collegiate Handmade Paper Triennial: Twenty-First-Century Papermakers

Summer 2016
Summer 2016
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Lynn Sures is a multidisciplinary artist based in Maryland, exhibiting internationally and represented by Central Booking in New York. She is the founding director of the National Collegiate Handmade Paper Triennial and of the annual Fabriano, Italy Paper/Print/Book study trip. Sures is a professor of fine arts and program head of fine arts at Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, George Washington University. I was in a plane headed for Atlanta when the idea of a national competition for college student artists occurred to me, and I pitched the idea to Cindy Bowden when we met. She enthusiastically agreed, and with the freewheeling spirit of people doing something for the first time, we set out as co-directors. Cindy, as director of the American Museum of Papermaking, and I, as a faculty member of the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC, hurtled towards organizing and presenting the 1st National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Show in 1999. The mission was and continues to be the recognition of artwork being done at the college level in which the student artist's own handmade paper is the primary medium.

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We identified the overarching tasks: to acquire jurors; notify all the papermaking programs across the US about the show; create an entry system, a selection system, a shipping system; line up exhibition venues; and figure out how to pay for the undertaking. We researched paper programs and asked friends for institutional information they could share to create our first mailing list. Cindy secured from Crane & Co. a contribution of paper for a prospectus designed by Corcoran student Christian Baldo. We printed and mailed them across the country to get the word out about the show. We wanted a broad base of involvement. Our first committee included Steve Miller of the University of Alabama and Tim Barrett of the University of Iowa as advisors. Marilyn Sward of Columbia College Chicago and Peter Sowiski of Buffalo State College helped to line up venues and awards. Thirty-four schools nationwide entered the competition. We invited two DC–based jurors, independent curator Jane Farmer and Joann Moser, senior curator of graphics at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The jurors met at the Corcoran in an all-day event to review works submitted by 160 student artists. At the end of the marathon, 39 works were chosen, created by students representing 21 schools. Crane & Co. contributed funds to facilitate traveling the exhibition, which opened in 1999 at Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, and traveled to the American Museum of Papermaking in Atlanta, then to Buffalo State College in New York, and concluded its tour at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was exciting for the students whose work was on exhibition in a museum setting for the first time. A purchase above: Nika Meyers, Powerline, 2011, 32 x 64 inches, found maps, charcoal, handmade paper, thread (5th Triennial, Mt. Holyoke College). below: Karen Searle, Body Bag 1, 1999, 16 x 10 x 8 inches, crocheted, handspun flax, cast paper, museum tags (1st Triennial, Minneapolis College of Art and Design). All photos courtesy of the author and the artists. Anthony Young, Untitled (Black Self Portrait), 2015, 33 x 22 inches, hair and pulp on cotton handmade paper (6th Triennial, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston). Lyndey Clayborn, The Wise Look to the Finger that Points to the Sky, 2011, 34 x 12 x 2 inches, wet-folded abaca (5th Triennial, University of Georgia). Nancy Lares, Rocks, circa 2002, 24 x 24 x 10 inches, kozo, watercolor (2nd Triennial, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston). Tony Garbarini, Dirty, 2008, 60 x 83 inches, paper made from artist's clothes, intaglio, yarn (4th Triennial, Washington University in St. Louis). Kranti Waghmare, City Light, 1999, 36 x 48 inches, pulp painting (1st Triennial, Corcoran School of Art + Design). Amanda O'Keefe, Shell, 2008, 44 x 32 x14 inches, welded steel, handmade paper (abaca, kozo, gampi), gum transfer (4th Triennial, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston). Mary Cork, Mother, circa 2002, 40 x 24 inches, pulp painting (2nd Triennial, Memphis College of Art). award was given by the American Museum of Papermaking. Other awards were in-kind items pertaining to the field of hand papermaking—merchandise, subscriptions, and memberships donated by Carriage House Paper, Twinrocker, Lee S. McDonald, Hand Papermaking magazine, the Friends of Dard Hunter, and the American Museum of Papermaking. At the end of the tour in 2000, Cindy and I had a short time to bask in the glow before admitting to ourselves that the show had taken a year to produce and another to travel…and that it was time to get started on the second triennial, just in time for the next cohort of student artists ready to enter. Opportunity and inclusion are key objectives that have helped to guide our efforts from the first triennial to, most recently, our sixth! Any student enrolled in a two-year Associate, BA, BFA, MA, or MFA program in a college, university, or art school in the US is eligible. To ensure that any qualified student can enter, registration is handled and paid for by the participating schools. In turn, the fees constitute the entire financial backbone of the triennials. Another important goal of the triennials is to respect and reflect the field nationally. We move the locus of jurying from city to city. Past jurors have included Mindell Dubansky, preservation librarian of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Andrea Honore, art program administrator of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Marilyn Sward, founding director of the Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts; Frank Paluch, director of Perimeter Gallery in Chicago; Paul Wong, artistic director of Dieu Donné Papermill in New York; Shelley Langdale, curator of prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Jane Milosch, senior program officer, Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Our committee members and sponsors are drawn from institutions, related businesses, and organizations across the country. And the triennials have been exhibited nationally at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa; Nichols State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana; the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts; Brodsky Center of the Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey; the American Museum of Papermaking in Atlanta; Buffalo State College, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design (now the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, George Washington University) in Washington, DC; Minneapolis College of Art and Design; and Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. There has been variance in the number of participating schools and student artists entering the triennials, and also the number selected by the jurors for exhibition. Similarly to the 1st Triennial, 21 schools entered the competition for the 2nd Triennial, and 38 works from 15 schools were chosen. For the 3rd Triennial in 2005–06, 16 schools responded to the call for entries, from which 33 student artists were chosen representing 11 schools. The jurors for the 4th Triennial made a very selective choice: 18 student artists from 11 schools. Our solo juror for the 5th Triennial reviewed 227 entries from 21 schools, and decisively selected 40 student artists representing 20 schools. As we hit the 10-year mark in 2009, co-founder Cindy Bowden stepped down and I invited Anne Q. McKeown of the Brodsky Center of the Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University to join me as co-director. Together we brainstormed a new type of award to replace the purchase award that we offered for a final time in 2006. We wanted to emphasize continued education in paper art; and our Lottery Award was born. A small Roxanne Phillips, Candy Circles, 2002, 51 x 71 inches, blueprint, collagraph, drawing, pulp painting on handmade paper (2nd Triennial, Washington University in St. Louis). Installation view of the 6th National Collegiate Paper Triennial at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, February 2016. Student artists whose work appear in the main gallery, clockwise: Leah Hamel (Louisiana State University), Sarah Zuckerman (George Mason University), and Julie Weaver (School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston); in the second gallery: Gregory Vita (Corcoran School of Arts and Design, GW). Photo: Sana Ullah, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, GW. percentage of the triennial's sponsors are called on to donate a free workshop to an awarded student. We have been proud of the range of experiences offered in the awards, and grateful for the support by our community. Continuing our efforts to keep the triennial nationally inclusive, Anne and I delivered a PowerPoint presentation detailing the triennial's decade-long history at the 2009 Friends of Dard Hunter conference that took place in Atlanta that year. At the conference, executive director of Hand Papermaking Tom Bannister and I came up with exciting new award—a student seat on Hand Papermaking's board of directors. Currently Anne and I are working with a dedicated group to undertake the sixth triennial which will open in February 2016. Two past triennial participants have become invaluable committee members: Megan Singleton (Talas Award, 5th Triennial, 2011–12), and Mary Tasillo (3rd Triennial, 2005-06). They updated the prospectus, created a viable online system for the schools to upload their triennial submissions, and enabled the system to accommodate anonymous online jurying of images. They are also monitoring the Triennial's gmail account, responding to inquiries, and forwarding communications to Anne and me. Their energy and perspective as past participants are huge contributions, and what a meaningful source! Joan Hall, professor emeritus at Washington University at St. Louis, served as our intrepid juror. Reviewing 185 entries from 12 schools, she selected 21 distinctive works from 9 schools to include in the exhibition. At this writing, having digitally seen the pieces she chose, we are anticipating the exhibition with the same level of excitement that preceded our very first triennial in 1999. The National Collegiate Paper Triennial has always been about young artist papermakers. My most prominent recollection from the 1st Triennial in 1999 is that of meeting enthusiastic student exhibitor Shawn Sheehy and his parents. Shawn was an award winner in 1999, and a purchase award winner in the next triennial. He is now a well-respected book artist, pop-up engineer, and designer. Michelle Samour, faculty member of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, remarked, "The Paper Triennials have offered my papermaking students a unique opportunity to show their work with their peers from across the country...This venue always raises the bar for them, and has become an important part of their emergence as young papermakers and artists." One of Samour's students Anthony Young is represented in the current triennial. "I am very humbled to be part of the exhibition," said Young, "especially knowing how many entries there were. It motivates me to continue exploring my work through other media, and makes me curious about the possibilities of using paper." I asked several former triennial participants to share their thoughts. Mary Tasillo (3rd Triennial), now on staff at Hand Papermaking, said to me "… the Paper Triennial gave me confidence in my handmade paper art at a time when I was just learning to work with handmade paper as an expressive form." Lynette Spencer (5th Triennial) noted, "As an award winner, it was a great jump start to my time as Papermaking Associate at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center." Eleni Giorgos (5th Triennial) remarked, "My award membership to the Friends of Dard Hunter furthered my connection to the papermaking community at large." Megan Singleton (5th Triennial), now an active artist in St. Louis, appreciated "the opportunity to exhibit our work in prominent galleries and museums, gain exposure…and develop our CVs." She added that participating "strengthened my connections with prominent contemporary paper artists." Leah Matthews (4th Triennial) recalled that the triennial "was a learning experience. With paper being a rare medium, it brought together a plethora of examples of…handmade paper as more than a mere substrate." Matthews has since made paper at Pace Editions in New York for artists such as Jim Dine and Shepard Fairey. The National Collegiate Handmade Paper Triennial has come of age, yet its mission remains to feature up-and-coming talent and to promote the most ambitious work being made in handmade paper at the collegiate level. We look forward to this opportunity, every three years, to review and present the best of what is happening in university papermaking studios nationwide, be it installation art, pulp paintings, artist books, prints, watermarks, or more to-be-discovered applications of the art of handmade paper. Eden Reiner, Neck Muscles, 2004, 20 x 14 inches, palladium print on handmade paper with watermark (3rd Triennial, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston).