THE MFA PROGRAM

The Master of Fine Arts in the Book Arts Program began in 1985, and emphasizes the art and craft of making books by hand. We are located in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, School of Library and Information Studies, at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa; a verdant, traditional campus located on the banks of the mighty Black Warrior River.

The program leading to the M.F.A. in the Book Arts degree is a 60-credit hour course of study comprising four basic areas: printing/publishing, bookbinding, papermaking, and the history of the book. These areas do not work in isolation. Connections between them are made as often as possible. Our emphasis is on the book as an integrated unit, although there is opportunity for a student who wishes to pursue a specific interest in one or more of these areas after the initial general year of study. We are interested in developing craft skills based on historical principles and techniques, and the artistic expression that follows.

The M.F.A in the Book Arts Program develops book artists who have well-honed technical knowledge of the various facets of contemporary bookmaking, and who have an understanding of the historical evolution of the book including its materiality, and the role of the book in society. Courses explore the reconciliation of modern sensibilities with historic craft. It is to be remembered that the M.F.A. degree, and the 2.5-3 years leading to it, is a starting point in what is a lifelong process of acquiring skills and sensibilities in the art and craft of making books.

We accept up to eight new students each year. Our students are highly motivated, and come from various undergraduate backgrounds and work experiences. We have four graduate assistantships available yearly, on a competitive basis, plus three Windgate Fellowships.

The general goal for the M.F.A. program is to develop professional artisans who are technically proficient in the book arts and cognizant of the historical background in which these various crafts evolved and of the professional environment in which our graduates will work. To reach this goal, the school has created the following two specific goals and enabling objectives.

1. To provide students with an education that inculcates craft skills required for proficiency in the book arts, and that develops a sound foundation for the aesthetics and methodology of these arts:

a. Provide each student with fundamental technical skills in each of the crafts comprised by the book arts

b. Ready each student to apply these skills and techniques in the marketplace

c. Provide advanced technical skills in each student’s area of professional specialization

d. Create in each student a desire to acquire and upgrade skills beyond the formal program

e. Provide and reinforce in each student an appreciation for the aesthetics of the crafts

f. Facilitate the choice by the end of the first semester of an initial professional specialization in either printing or binding

g. Maintain a faculty whose members are recognized leaders in their fields

2. To enhance the professional status of artisans engaged in the book arts:

a. Acquaint students with the heritage, responsibilities, trends, and standards of the profession

b. Instill in students a concept of the interrelationship of the book arts

c. Enlist faculty to assist the book arts community by helping to establish standards, by supporting professional organizations, by offering continuing educational opportunities, and by serving as consultants and lecturers

d. Encourage faculty to publish and exhibit original works whenever appropriate

e. Encourage faculty to conduct research and disseminate findings to practitioners and teachers in the book arts community

Applicants are required to submit either the general portion of the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test in support of the application for admission. Ideally, prospective students should submit a portfolio of their work (in their area of experience), and if at all possible be interviewed by the book arts faculty. For detailed information about the application process please see the Graduate School website.