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Re: Inclusion in the book arts

Dear Ed Hutchins:

It is true that it takes some extra work to get a diversity of peoples
involved in book arts. Where classes are held, who sponsors them, and many
more questions enter in. When I was directing Minnesota Center for Book
Arts, we had some successes, and I attribute them primarily to hard work at
outreach, and to forming critical alliances. For example, our school
residency programs targeted inner city schools (although not exclusively),
and we found it was in some cases easier to find funding for programs in
such schools. We also made sure that such schools were able to bring
students to tour Minnesota Center for Book Arts -- and we had a bus fund
donations program to help defer (and in some cases entirely subsidize)
transportation to the center for many schools. We also sought out teachers
and others in such schools to initiate and participate in special bookmaking
programs. And we made an alliance with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Minneapolis
to make sure we had students of color participate in a bookmaking workshop
led by Amos Paul Kennedy.

As far as making such programs work, and attracting more diverse audiences
in your community, I would suggest talking to people in schools, also to
organizations which may specifically serve minority communities. Also, find
out what arts organizations are doing a good job in attracting minority
participants, and ask them how they do it. There will be a lot of hard work
ahead for you, but it will be rewarded. The one thing that doesn't work is
simply to announce a program, publicize it in places where diverse
communities might see it, and hope they sign up -- although I'm not saying
this is what libraries where you have taught have done. The situation is
much more complicated, and it takes a great deal more work than that. And
sometimes, even with the best of strategies, response may not be what you
hope for. But if you keep working at it, it will get better.

And you ask specifically what you can do as an individual. One thing is to
find out what steps the institutions you work with are taking, and insist
(as nicely as you can, but still insist) that strong outreach strategies are
undertaken. Also, you can personally make some of the contacts with
teachers, artists of color, people in organizations which have successful
outreach, and ask them to help you. And I'd love to hear more specific
suggestions from others as to what you might do.

thanks for asking  this important question

charles alexander
chax press

>Now that school is out, most of the book arts programs that I've been
>associated with have been at public libraries.  I can't help noticing that
>EVERY class has had no minority representation.
>It's true, that in some upstate and New England communties where I've taught,
>there are not many minorities.  But not always.   Recently, for example, I
>gave two workshops at the Grinnell Library in Wappingers Falls, NY.  There
>were 20 kids signed up for the morning workshop and 21 for the afternoon.
> Except for one child of Indian (from India) descent, there were no
>minorities in the two classes.  Yet, when I went for a walk at lunch time, I
>noticed that the neighborhood around the library was predominately
>African-American and Hispanic.  This has been the pattern all summer, even
>for the adult classes.
>My philosophy is that everyone has a story to tell, so everyone is a
>potential bookmaker.  It is very unsettling to realize that there is a
>community loaded with stories, and therefore books, within footsteps of my
>workshops that is not being reached.  Call me crazy, but as I walked that
>neighborhood, I felt the books that were out there waiting to be made.
>Of course, the local institution needs to be involved, but what I can do to
>encourage broader participation?  This is a serious problem and any
>suggestions you have to improve the situation would be greatly appreciated.
>Thanks.  Ed (Hutchins)

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