Arca Artium, “Ark of the Arts,” is a collection of books, artwork and other artifacts that provide both primary and secondary resources for exploring the creative interplay between religious expression and artistic endeavor. It began as the working collection of Frank Kacmarcik, Obl.S.B., teacher, liturgical designer, graphic artist, typographer and calligrapher. For many years a close associate of Saint John’s, Br. Frank became a claustral oblate of the monastery in 1988 and formally donated his collection to Saint John’s University in 1995. Arca Artium reflects the monastic and liturgical traditions that have inspired Br. Frank’s own work but is not limited by them. As a research collection of Saint John’s University, Arca Artium is a dynamic and evolving witness to the vitality of human creativity.
The core of Arca Artium is a library containing more than 30,000 volumes, concentrating on the book and graphic arts, biblical and liturgical art, architectural and furnishing design especially as they relate to religious ceremony, and monastic history and heritage. Among these volumes are some 4,000 rare books, with particular emphasis on fine printing from the incunable period (pre-1500) to the present. The collection’s extensive section of reference material interprets and supports its holdings of rare books and original works of art.
Arca Artium’s art collection includes more than 4,000 fine art prints, drawings and calligraphic specimens. Among these, the collection has a noteworthy array of works by fine artists of the twentieth century who involved themselves in the production of beautiful books or other projects aimed at setting word and image in fruitful dialogue. Arca Artium also contains significant holdings of folk art, music recordings, pottery, sculpture, furniture and furnishings that help to articulate a culture and context for items that represent its major areas of concentration.
Arca Artium is currently being catalogued and organized; it is intended to serve artists and scholars as part of the research resources available at Saint John’s and to enrich the community through exhibitions and other activities that display and interpret portions of the collection.