Book art at Mills offers an unprecedented opportunity for students to explore and create traditional and contemporary artists' books in this rapidly evolving field. Mills has offered pioneering curriculum in book art since the early 1980s; today, students receive grounding in the conceptual, theoretical, historical, and craft foundations of contemporary artists' bookmaking through classes that combine studio work and scholarly study.
Mills students can choose from a broad array of classes in various studio aspects of book art, from letterpress printing and experimental printmaking to the study of traditional and contemporary book structures. The facilities of the Eucalyptus Press and the Florence Walter Bindery provide ample equipment and materials for hands-on work. In the F. W. Olin Library students can examine books ranging from the Nuremberg Chronicle and the Kelmscott Chaucer to the most contemporary bookworks as context and inspiration for their own creative works.
Students can take individual classes, complete the book art minor, or choose to combine book art with another field of study by creating an interdisciplinary college major. Recent college majors have incorporated subjects as diverse as studio art, anthropology and sociology, and creative writing.
In the fall of 2009 Mills inaugurated a new MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing Program. The MFA degree, the first of its kind in the country, allows graduate students to combine artists' bookmaking and creative writing in a rigorous program of study in the Bay Area community, one of the most dynamic book art centers in the country. MFA students work in both the book art facilities and a separate graduate letterpress studio while studying with internationally known faculty and visiting artists, scholars, and instructors. Mills graduate students in creative writing, literature, studio art, music, and dance enroll in book art classes to pursue their interests in artists' books.
Book art students at Mills can track contemporary trends through the many visiting professionals and scholars who visit the Bay Area. The Mills College Center for the Book, while not affiliated with the Book Art Program, sponsors exhibitions, lectures, and panels throughout the year that students can attend. Recent guest artists and speakers to the Mills College Center for the Book include scholar and artist Johanna Drucker, publisher Steve Clay of Granary Books, avant garde composer Pauline Oliveros, and the preeminent type designers Hermann Zapf and Gudrun Zapf von Hesse. The Book Art Program has welcomed artists, writers and publishers such as Katarzyna Bazarnik and Zenon Faifer, Jen Bervin, Françoise Despalles and Johannes Strugalla, Helen Mirra, Kyle Schlesinger, Alan Loney, Anne Carson, and many other local, national, and international artists whose primary practice is with artists' books.
Programs at the Book Club of California, the Codex Foundation, the Grabhorn Institute, San Francisco Center for the Book, and many other Bay Area institutions also give students the opportunity to meet outstanding professionals in the field of book art. Field trips, internships, and exhibitions abound in the Bay Area, which has a long and rich history in the practice of book art.