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Beloved book arts studio closing its doors

by Iovana Borjas

The Tampa Book Arts Studio, a secret to some and a treasure to others, has been part of UT for almost four decades.

The studio, which exhibits a collection of more than 10,000 items and examples of at least 600 presses, has been used by the UT community years. In the beginning, it was mostly a space for professors and students to work on letterpress projects and printed pieces.

Eventually, Richard Mathews, director of UT Press and the Tampa Review, and Kendra Frorup, art and design associate professor, created a course called Printing, Publishing, and Book Arts.

Now its workers, a team composed entirely of volunteers and students, have said their goodbyes after learning the studio will be closed indefinitely.

Mathews explained that the studio, which is currently situated in the Edison Building, will be closing its doors after UT decided to level the building for reconstruction.

The studio will be relocated to a small storage building at 207 Willow Street, according to Matthews. All machinery will have to be moved out of the studio before the summer break.

“Unfortunately, students won’t have access to the equipment in the new temporary location,” said Mathews. “There are not many book arts programs in the country.”

David Reamer, chair of the English department, said that this will impact student’s overall college experience since there is no other place to learn what was taught in the studio.

“I don’t think it will impact student’s ability to graduate,” Reamer said. “But I do think it is a loss for students not to learn hands-on applied printing technology.”

Reamer explained that the studio was often used by writing, english, graphic design and journalism majors.

The course, named under the code of ENG 370, is not a core requirement for any major, but an elective for many.

Carl Mario Nudi, letterpress coordinator and retired newspaperman, said there is more to it than just the experience.

“There is something of value having the students see a printing press work or set type,” said Nudi. “This process forces the student to use different thinking skills to work out problems that the computer would do without one even knowing it.”

Nudi expressed his concern with the studio closing.

“I don’t think this is good for UT,” said Nudi. “With the studio, we were in the same league as some very prestigious universities around the nation, such as the University of Alabama, the University of Iowa, and Stanford.”

Joshua Steward, editorial and publishing assistant at UT Press, said the shutdown of the studio had affected him emotionally.

“This has made my emotional connection with and commitment to the university to become tenuous,” Steward said. “It weakens the commitment the university has expressed to both the humanities and the visual arts.”

Mathews and Reamer said that the news was given to them by David Gudelunas, dean of the college of arts and letters.

The Minaret tried contacting Gudelunas and did not receive a response.

Mathews said he hopes that the studio will still be beneficial for UT.

“We hope the UT community will still indirectly enjoy some of the benefits of this unique collection,” Mathews said. “We will continue to offer special exhibits in the library and to feature some of the treasures from our collection.”

Laura Stewart, UT alumna, said she enjoyed her class in the studio.

“It’s a shame because the book arts class was one of the most valuable experiences with a classroom community I’ve had at UT,” Stewart said. “It was one of the most unique subjects I studied.”

Raji Shareef, senior writing major, said he would do anything to open the studio again.

“If I knew who to talk to about bringing the studio back, I’d be at their doorstep right this very moment,” Shareef said. “I would implore them to reconsider this choice.”

Iovana Borjas can be reached at iovana.borjas@theminaretonline.com

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