Baylor’s Book Arts Collection changes how we look at the definition of “book”

The Book Arts Collection of Baylor Libraries continues to grow with over 1,500 works since 2007. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Avery Owens | Staff Writer

The Book Arts Collection of Baylor Libraries offers a variety of over 1500 works to be enjoyed. It began in 2007 with the founder and curator of the collection, Sha Towers’ vision and guidance. Today, the collection continues to grow.

“Book arts are really the expression of artists that are using the book as their medium,” Towers said. “Sometimes that means the artwork looks like a book, and then sometimes those artists are using ideas that we get from books as their inspiration. Some things in the collections don’t look anything like a book.”

Book art is an art form with no boundaries. The collection at Baylor is diverse, ranging from a work made out of cheese, (which Towers said eventually molded) to works made out of actual books. The idea is to use books as a source of inspiration, whatever direction that might take.

Andrea Turner, Baylor Libraries special collections manager, emphasized the many artistic directions of book art.

“The formats are completely different, ranging from what you would think of — the typical definition of a book — to things that when you look at it, the word book would never come into your mind,” Turner said. “It really challenges everyone’s definition of a book and can really open up your mind to a variety of ways to think about everyday topics.”

The collection often partners with professors to teach the material to students in a novel way.

“Some of the books that we have in the Book Arts Collection are things that students remember the most from the whole semester,” Turner said. “It brings a whole personal perspective to something you’ve read about a million times; and it doesn’t really come to life until you see it in book art form.”

This connection between students and book arts is what Towers said motivates him as he curates new works. Towers said he especially loves how many of the artists in the collection are still living and enjoys watching artist-student interaction.

“It’s been really fun to not only create this collection, but to create these connections to practicing artists that can engage,” Towers said. “It’s one thing to see artwork in a gallery that’s beautiful, but it’s by an artist who’s long dead, or maybe it’s by a contemporary artist but not somebody that you could ever have a conversation about their work. This is a medium that lends itself really well to conversation about art.”

The most recent additions to the collection, by Dallas artist Alisa Banks, is on display in Moody Library. Three of Banks pieces are in glass casings just outside the elevators on the first floor.

Turner said even students who don’t create art or don’t have an art-focused major can enjoy the collection. All students are encouraged to book an appointment to see more of the collection.

“The Book Arts Collection can have something for everyone,” Turner said.