Hark Wins Major Book Arts Award

Mary Hark, photographed in profile, 2021

Mary Hark, 2021

Professor Mary Hark, of SoHE’s Design Studies department, has been named a 2021 McKnight Book Artist Fellow. The prestigious year-long fellowship, administered by Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) and running from August 2021 to July 2022, includes $25,000 in unrestricted funds, studio access through MCBA’s Artist Collective, and opportunities to professionally engage with nationally renowned book arts critics and curators, among other benefits.

“My practice has been dedicated to mastery of the craft, developing a personal voice within the field, and sharing this work through teaching in a variety of communities,” says Hark. “Receiving the McKnight Fellowship is a wonderful, deeply appreciated affirmation of this work and will allow me time and space to reflect on knowledge I have accrued and respond with a new body of work that celebrates and extends what I have accomplished to date.”

Bound book of Hark's pigmented and dyed handmade linen papers

Bound book of Hark’s pigmented and dyed handmade linen papers

Professor Hark is one of just two 2021 book artist fellows, recognized for her significant contributions to the field of hand papermaking. She has taught in SoHE’s Design Studies department since 2007, where she has won numerous awards for her art and teaching, including the UW Division of the Arts Emily Mead Baldwin Award in the Creative Arts and the UW Vilas Associates award. She also founded the Krataa Foundation in Ghana, West Africa, an NGO dedicated to promoting the use of an invasive plant for high-quality hand papermaking. This project produces artfully designed paper products for the Ghanaian market, nurtures local economic activity, and contributes to sustainable land management.

“This award has also given me pause to acknowledge the creative community in which I have grown up,” says Hark. “Tim Barrett, founding director of the Iowa Center for the Book, who generously modeled and shared a profound understanding of fine craftsmanship in papermaking; Professor Emerita Naomi Shedl of the University of Iowa Textile Design Department, who helped me understand that it was possible to build a substantial life in the arts and simultaneously nurture domestic life with my children; the School of the Art Institute in Chicago’s graduate program in Fiber and Material Studies, in particular Professors Anne Wilson and Joan Livingstone, generous educators and leaders in the field, whose example and guidance provided a rigorous foundation. And, so many influential colleagues and students! Now my practice is enriched by the example set by my adult daughters: one working to the highest standards as a fine-craft artist and the other a creative and sensitive educator.”

Professor Hark’s work is collected internationally and can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, the Ginsburg Book Arts Collection in Johannesburg, South Africa, and many university special collections libraries. She will give a public lecture later in the fellowship year, sharing some of what she has learned and created.

Handmade papers, linen and flax, pigmented and dyed

Handmade papers, linen and flax, pigmented and dyed


Read more about the McKnight Book Arts fellowship and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

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