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CSB alumna creates work of art for incoming students

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January 18, 2013

By Elisabeth Leipholtz ‘15

Anna Boyer
Above: Anna Boyer '08 works on her broadside in the Book Arts Studio at CSB. Below: A stack of finished broadsides ready for matting.

It's not often that a college graduate gets to come back to her alma mater within five years of graduation and create a signature piece of handmade paper art that is showcased to all incoming students.

But that's exactly what Anna Boyer did.

In fall 2012, Boyer-who graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 2008-returned to campus after being offered the opportunity to use the Book Arts Studio on the CSB campus to design and produce a Benedictine Values broadside - a poster printed on one side. The broadside would be included in all acceptance letters to prospective College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students.

Boyer finished graduate school at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in May 2012, where she received her master of fine arts degree in books arts and printmaking. She decided to pursue book arts after taking a class entitled "Editing and Publishing" during her senior year at CSB.

"The professor [Cindy Malone] brought us down to the Book Arts Studio where she described the history of printing and showed us how the individual pieces of type could be set together and printed on the press," Boyer said. "I was immediately attracted to the physicality of the process and the idea of creating a beautiful and fitting environment for a text." 

An idea is born 

The idea for the Benedictine Values broadside was first entertained when members of the CSB Cabinet toured the Book Arts Studio in May 2012. It was originally thought that acceptance letters themselves could be printed on the paper, but that presented some technical challenges.

Eventually the idea of including the matted Benedictine Values on the paper was proposed and Boyer was contacted.  The broadsides are each 4.2 inches by 5.5 inches and are simple in design, using a warm gray ink on paper made from native grasses found at Saint John's Abbey Arboretum.  The broadside includes the Benedictine Values of awareness of God, community living, hospitality, dignity of work, justice, listening, moderation, peace, stability, stewardship and respect for persons.

"We wanted to provide a piece that would have lasting value to the student and, in turn, have lasting value for us," said Tom Voller-Berdan, director of admission/marketing. "It really is a nice marriage of marketing and art." 

The process 

Boyer worked in the Book Arts Studio three days a week throughout the months of September, October and November. During this time, she collected the big bluestem and abaca fibers from the arboretum, made the paper, designed the plates and then printed and matted the 2,500 broadsides.

"My work was inspired by systems we create and follow, which may be perfect and exacting in theory, but in practice are idiosyncratic like we are," Boyer said. "The drawing for the Benedictine Values broadside is circular to demonstrate community and created in a repeated pattern symbolizing the guiding principles of the Benedictine Values we follow." 

Currently, Boyer is teaching book making and letterpress classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis, where she also does her own work. She is also preparing for her upcoming show this summer at the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minn. 

 "I was so happy for the chance to be back at CSB/SJU for its community and the place itself," Boyer said. "The opportunity to reconnect with professors and work with students in the Book Arts Studio was rewarding as well. Several work study students helped to mat the broadsides and seal them in plastic sleeves. Most of them had never seen lead type, century-old paper cutters, and printing presses. It was a pleasure for me to witness them taking in the magic of the studio for the first time." 

The results 

So far the broadside has received positive feedback from both students and adults. 

"I had just visited Saint Ben's and another college over the weekend and came home to acceptance letters to both schools in the mail," said Maddie Olson, an incoming first-year CSB student. "The contrast between the approaches from the schools mirrored my impression from my visit. My decision had already been made at the recent visit, based on many factors, but these letters solidified and confirmed this decision. 

"The print work from Saint Ben's showed substance and foundation to the education offered at this school, Olson continued. "Everything from the handmade paper to the emphasis on the values demonstrated that the school is built on not just what can be seen but core values and character. Everything I felt on campus seemed to be encompassed on that piece of paper; from the peaceful campus, to the sense of community and love of God. The message assured me that I had made the right decision to choose Saint Ben's."  

Based on the overall reception of the poster, its distribution is likely to be continued and expanded upon in the future.

"If we continue with this in future years, I would like to add some multimedia, like linking students to videos about the process," Voller-Berdan said. "My hope is that this will continue as it is, both in content and form, and underscore our community values."